In the U.S., there is health care available to identified victims of human trafficking. However, most health care providers have not been well trained to suspect or recognizing possible victims of trafficking. Due to the covert nature of human trafficking, traffickers do not allow their victims to seek health care services alone, often accompanying their victims to clinic appointments, speaking for the patient and refusing to leave the exam room. Other barriers to identifying victims of human trafficking can include language barriers, limited interaction with the health care provider, and the victim’s feelings of shame and fear.
There are several indicators a patient may be a victim of trafficking that are more easily identified by health care providers. Victims often do not have access to medical treatment at the onset of an infection or injury. In many cases, victims may try to treat the ailment improperly themselves causing more harm. The more advanced stage of an infection or ailment a patient presents with can be used as an indicator that the person is being trafficked. Victims may also have signs of violence on their bodies, such as bruises, cuts, and scratches in inconspicuous places. Lastly, according to Barrows and Finger healthcare providers usually require their patients to present an insurance or identification card, which most victims of trafficking will not possess.
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Identifying Human Trafficking Victims in the Health Care Setting
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