Fraser Health launches online learning module to help staff identify victims of human trafficking
Submitted. Fraser Health is the first health authority in Canada to convene a specialized health care team to respond to victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. In 2013, this team received a civil forfeiture grant from the Ministry of Justice to develop an online learning module to better aid emergency health care professionals to identify and help victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Today, a one hour online learning module, called “Human Trafficking – Help, Don’t Hinder”, developed by Fraser Health Forensic Nurse Examiners, was launched to staff.
“Human trafficking is a hidden crime, but we know that these women and girls are often desperate to escape and too scared to ask for help. Fraser Health’s new training module will empower emergency room staff to interrupt the cycle of abuse when trafficked persons come into the ER. It is very rewarding to see civil forfeiture proceeds funding such an important and innovative project,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton.
Human trafficking is a criminal act, a human rights violation, a form of exploitation, and an act of violence occurring globally. Canada is not immune. The trafficking of men, women and children is happening within and across Canadian borders. Trafficked persons may be victims of deception, coercion, fraud, violence, and abuse. Victims are exposed to numerous health risks and can be exploited in several ways such as sexual abuse or forced labour. Due to the hidden nature of the crime, most human trafficking activities are undetected or unreported. However, B.C.’s Office to Combat Trafficking in persons has assisted in more than 180 cases involving potentially trafficked persons since July 2007.
“Fraser Health is showing leadership by taking steps to help victims of exploitation and human trafficking,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Thanks to this program, health professionals will have the tools they need to better prevent this terrible crime and provide the necessary care for those who need assistance.”
Due to the violent and elusive nature of trafficking, health complications can occur before, during and after the trafficking process. The health consequences can be minor to severe, and ongoing. Very few go unscathed.
“Human trafficking is a health care issue. Health care providers may be the only link to help that trafficked persons come in contact with. As health care providers we have an opportunity to prevent, identify and respond to human trafficking,” said Tara Wilkie, RN, Forensic Nurse Examiner, Human Trafficking Team, Forensic Nursing Service, Surrey Memorial Hospital.
The training method, which includes an introductory video on human trafficking and interactive case studies, is based on the “c.a.r.e” acronym (CONSIDER – the red flags, ASSESS – the health care environment, the patient and the health care provider, RESPOND – initiate a referral to Forensic Nursing Service, EVALUATE – the response). This acronym is based on a trauma informed approach to care and guides the health care provider through the steps of identification and response.
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), the Surrey Women’s Centre’s SMART team, the Salvation Army and local victim service programs. Our goal is to share this online learning module nationwide so that health care providers across the country have the tools they need to identify and support victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
As a result of the work of Fraser Health’s Forensic Nurse Examiners, in June 2014, the regional referral process for health care providers to respond to violence including human trafficking was simplified. Fraser Health’s referral volume increased from 15 referrals to 100 referrals in one month. The refined referral process along with the toolkit will strengthen and enhance our abilities to identify and respond to human trafficking.