Forensic Nurse Examiners To Respond To Human Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation

Submitted. Frontline healthcare workers will be better able to identify and help victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation thanks to a new tool-kit being developed by a team of Forensic Nurse Examiners at Fraser Health. The tool-kit, called Help, Don’t Hinder, is made possible by a civil forfeiture grant.

It is estimated that anywhere from 900,000 to 4 million people worldwide, primarily women and girls, are trafficked every year and the overwhelming majority are trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Canada has been identified as a source, transit and a destination point for human trafficking. Although human trafficking can involve transporting people across international borders, it also occurs within the borders of a country. In British Columbia, the trafficking of Aboriginal women and girls from Northern BC to the Lower Mainland is an example of domestic trafficking that is of growing concern.

Recognizing that hospitals in general and emergency departments in particular are a key intervention point, and oftentimes, the only place these women and girls receive medical care, Fraser Health’s team of Forensic Nurse Examiners is developing a tool-kit that will assist emergency department health care providers to identify and respond to suspected cases of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

“It is very rewarding to see civil forfeiture grants go to such innovative and important projects as this one at Fraser Health,” said Shirley Bond, Minister of Justice and Attorney General. “Our province is not immune to human trafficking and these tool-kits will be a critical resource for frontline healthcare workers to use to help identify and support the victims of this horrible crime.”

“By building the tool-kit and educating our peers in the emergency departments across Fraser Health to identify ‘red flags’ that may indicate human trafficking, we can bring life to this issue and ultimately improve the lives of women and girls,” said Martha Cloutier, Director, Clinical Programs, Emergency and Trauma, Fraser Health.

“We want to educate healthcare providers to identify persons who may be trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Some of the red flags may include, controlling behaviors, signs of abuse, certain injuries and illness, long hours of work, no fixed address, and no access to money or documents,” said Tara Wilde, RN, Forensic Nurse Examiner, Human Trafficking Team, Forensic Nursing Services, Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Fraser Health is the first health authority in the Province to convene a specialized health care team to respond to victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The team consists of experienced forensic nurse examiners working in partnership with key stakeholders such as police, the BC Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons (OCTIP), Servants Anonymous, the Salvation Army and local victim service programs.

Housed in the emergency department, this team has identified the project as a key step to building effective response for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in the Fraser Health region. Within hospital settings, the emergency department is often the first point of contact for trafficked persons seeking medical treatment. However, due to the elusive nature of the crime, victims are unlikely to disclose or even identify themselves as trafficked persons. By providing emergency department staff with practical tools, the project increases the likelihood that health care providers will be able to identify and respond to victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in a timely, safe and confident manner.

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