It is important to understand that trafficking victims are often trauma victims and to interview them in a way that is sensitive and non-judgmental.28 You can help the patients feel comfortable by using the same words that they use without correcting them.30 Be prepared for unfamiliar stories, and understand that victims may be in “crisis mode” and have difficulty remembering parts of their stories. 31
Because attempting to escape their traffickers or initiate investigations against them can often place trafficking victims and their families back home in very real danger, confidentiality is imperative. Every staff member, translator, etc., who has contact with the victim needs to understand and respect the need for confidentiality.32
If you suspect that a patient is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-3737-888. If you believe you notice signs of trafficking in children, you can call the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Hotline to report: 1-800-96ABUSE. You can also report a trafficking crime and obtain general information from the Department of Justice at: www.usdoj.gov/crt/crim/tpwetf.htm and Complaint line 888-428-7581. Health professionals can help identify victims of human trafficking by paying attention to the signs and fostering trusting relationships with patients so that they can feel comfortable sharing information about trafficking with you.
It is normal to want to rescue someone who is a victim of human trafficking, but it is important to proceed with caution and respect the wishes of the patient.33 Unless calling the authorities is mandatory, do not do so without the patient’s permission. Do not frighten the patient by asking about his or her immigration status.34
Your words may be the first message of hope or kindness the patient has heard in a long time. Communicate that they have rights, that they are not alone, and their situation is not their fault, and that they are entitled to help.35 Assess the safety of the patient by asking about whether they have a safe place to stay, and what would happen to them if they did not return to where they were expected to be that evening.36 If there is a hospital social worker, connect them with the patient. 37 You can also connect the patient directly to service providers that will help them. 38 Understand that many trafficking victims will wait to seek help until they feel that they safe.39 You can help the patient by providing them with information about where to seek help in the future (including returning to the clinic/hospital).
Remember to communicate verbally to avoid the risk of the trafficker finding and destroying your written instructions.40