Victims and the vulnerable cross the path of health care providers every day. They often seek the care of the these providers however without expressly describing the reality of the lives they live. Research indicates that four out of ten victims of human trafficking and exploitation will be seen by a healthcare provider at some point during their captivity. Four out of ten. While this statistic is staggering, it brings hope. This is four out of ten that healthcare providers, given proper training, have the opportunity to identify. Four out of ten victims can become four out of ten survivors. Child abuse victims can present subtle clues to the horror they live daily.
Our challenge is to ask the right questions, identify the red flags and initiate a plan of care that addresses the needs of the patient. This can be challenging. Yet, it is incredibly important that we do not miss the opportunity to address the victimization of our patients and know who in our community can fill the gaps in care as these patients begin their journey towards hope and healing.
Victims will pass through our facilities, offices and departments. The question is whether we will have the insight and skills to bring this issue to the forefront of our interactions. Recent data suggest that childhood exposure to violence leads to a lifetime of chronic illness and hastens death as adults. Identifying victimization and vulnerability is in the best interest of the long term health of our patients and our communities.