By JAN EDWARDS
Last month we talked about the realities of Human Trafficking right here in Central Florida. As shocking as it is, Florida is ranked 3rd in the nation for calls to the national trafficking hotline. The average age of entry is 11-14 and likelihood that a victim of human trafficking or child exploitation has crossed your doorway is high, in fact 85 percent of trafficking victims reported being in a medical setting for various concerns but did not feel safe enough to ask for help.
I have a couple of questions for you? Did you put those numbers in your phone? If not, here they are again 888-373-7888 and Florida Abuse Hotline is 800-962-2873. Stop reading and do that now.
Did you have conversations with your staff yet? If not, well, maybe you’re dealing with all the unrest out in the world and unsure how to bring this topic up. Or maybe, this is still an uncomfortable topic to be with, let alone discuss it with someone else. It’s ok, I understand. In fact, it’s why we are so committed to getting the word out about this crime against our children. The more we shine a light in the darkness, the bigger impact we can have. We hear you concerns. We are trained to have those conversations with your team. Learn more about our nursing CEU Course here.
This month we’re going to talk about tools and resources available to you and invite you to get involved in a statewide awareness campaign that’s easy to do and we help with the conversations.
Now that you are educated on the signs to look for in both adults and children (if you need a review click here for last month’s article), you may be wondering what other resources are available.
The Florida Department of Children and Family (DCF) services has created a brilliant human trafficking assessment tool. The assessment needs to be completed by a Child Protective Investigator or a Community-Based Care Agency representative, so if you suspect child trafficking, calling the Florida Abuse Hotline number is the wisest thing to do. That number again is 800-962-2873. You can find the DCF screening tool here. There is also a quick screening tool developed in tandem with Covenant House in New Jersey for teens and young people. You can access to the QYIT here.
How you confirm a child is a possible victim is by asking very simple questions that can lead you to the conclusion to call DCF. It’s all in how you are being. The tone of voice, the words you use, your body language. Consider it similar to delivering news to a patient they don’t really want to hear but need to hear.
Another really great tool is using ACE’s Quiz. Adverse Childhood Experiences have been sourced to chronic illnesses and diseases in many adults. The earlier we can discover the adversity and get the child taken care of, the longer and stronger life they get to live. You can use this assessment at any age and it offers a sense of what your patient is either dealing with or has in their past. Here is a link to the quiz and some terrific information about ACE Scores. The importance of using this tool is based on the fact that the CDC did a study in 2012 and estimated we spent over $124 Billion dollars on untreated childhood trauma. The long-term effects of abuse, neglect and suffering can actually be interrupted by asking a few simple questions as you engage with your patients.
Here are a few non-threatening questions you can practice with talking with children:
“That’s an interesting place for a bruise – how’d you get that playing “superman/women’? – Watch their reaction. Do they look at the parent before speaking? Stumble with their words? If so, ask another simple question to verify.
- “What was your favorite thing you learned in school this week? – Do they light up and share freely or again look to the parent for the answer and mumble something (and they are normally not a mumbler).
- Watch the parent’s reaction – are they nervous? Do they stumble over words and were perfectly articulate moments ago? Fidgety?
- Last question – “Have you been getting good sleep?” – watch the reaction – if it’s the same, looking for the answer, stumbling or mumbling – you can make a quick statement like – we’ll it’s been “hot, rainy, cold,” I’ve had a hard time sleeping too.
It’s time to separate the parent and the child so you can ask the important key question. Take the child for an “x-ray or scan” or offer the parent coffee or water – bottom line, get a few minutes alone with the child and another nurse or doctor and you can ask the following questions:
- “Sometimes, children find themselves in situations where they feel unsafe, threatened, controlled or even tricked into doing something they didn’t want to do. Is anyone at home doing something to you that makes you feel that way?” Pause and be quiet. Give the child a moment to think and respond.
- “I know this may be a little scary. Maybe no one has asked you about this before or maybe you shared it with someone and they didn’t believe you, it’s ok. It’s not your fault. You haven’t done anything wrong, we want you to know you are safe, and we will make sure to keep you and your (mom, sister, brother) safe.”
- From there, one of the staff members must call DCF. They will instruct you what to do. You can also call One More Child, they support child trafficking victims ages 10-21. Their number is 407-799-8719.
Now what does all of this have to do with disrupting child trafficking and exploitation?
Here are some frightening statistics:
- 3 percent of childhood abusers were parents, 6.1 percent were relatives other than parents.1
- 75 percent of teenage child trafficking victims have been sexually abused. 2
- 65 percent of child trafficking victims are exploited by a family member. 3
The math is clear – our children are at the highest risk of being victimized and exploited.
Know the signs. Ask the questions. Make the call.
For more insights watch our interview here with Principal Jordan Rodriquez:
For adult victims the journey is similar because many were abused as children, ran away, came out of foster care or were recruited into this nightmare. Like children, they are controlled by their ‘boyfriend’ pimp, trafficker or bottom girl.
A bottom girl is the traffickers “top girl” – she helps recruit and maintain the ‘stable’ of girls. It’s her job to keep them in line, take them to get their health checkups, hair and nails done, shopping, etc. She may even get a small percentage of the girls take to keep her loyal.
She may be the one that brings the victim to your office for her checkup. The same rules of engagement apply – the questions are slightly different.
There are however, clear things to look for, starting with the front desk team. Does the patient have his/her own wallet and ID or does someone else control it? Do they never leave the patient alone? Does the patient answer the questions about address, age and where they were born or the ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’? Those three things right there are red flags and call for a moment of separation to dive a little deeper into the situation.
Once alone – these simple questions can guide you to the next move. I will warn you, much like DV Victims, most trafficking victims do not self-identify, they may not want to leave or even feel they can leave. Trauma bonding is real. So are the treats, manipulation and coercion. I invite you to bring some patience, love and compassion to the conversation along with keen listening and paying attention to body language. Trust your gut – if something feels off. Stop the action. Separate the patient from their controller as gently as possible and ask a few of these questions:
- That’s an unusual tattoo? Does it have a special meaning to you?
- Have you ever been afraid to leave or quit a work situation due to fears of violence or threats of harm to yourself or your family?
- Has anyone ever threatened you if you didn’t do something you didn’t want to do?
Depending upon the answers, trusting your gut, call the national trafficking hotline, 888-373-7888. They’ll guide you from there. Please try not to get discouraged if they do not want to be “rescued.” Trauma bonding is very strong and sometimes it takes several times for victims to even think about leaving the life. A word of caution, giving them the hotline number can put them at risk. Be creative on how you do that. For example, you can write the number on their foot or leave a paper and pen in the restroom they can say if they want help.
The one thing I’ve learned over time, victims choose when they leave. They are not rescued – they decide to leave the life or not. Trauma centered care and compassionate conversation can make the difference for them to even contemplate leaving and stay out.
Depending upon the situation, if law enforcement is called in, they will bring a victim advocate to assist the survivor and ensure they get the assistance they need. They will manage the care and getting the survivor to the place they need to be safe, reduce the fear and begin their journey of hope.
Some local resources for adults are:
Modern Day Slavery is a travesty against humanity. Women and children represent over 60 percent of the victims, while men make up the rest. There is no socio-eco-demographic boundary for human trafficking.
There is a solution and you are an important part of it. By being aware, educating your staff and taking appropriate action to save people from a life that one can only imagine.
We invite you to participate in a simple event in November to raise awareness – Lights on For Children! November 20, is Universal Children’s Day. Go buy a blue lightbulb, then on 11/20/20 at dusk, turn on your porch light blue and let’s light up the night, shining the brightness of hope. You can learn more here on how to participate and shine a light on child trafficking. https://www.pavingthewayfoundation.org/lightsonforchildren.html
- https://www.iom.int/sites/default/files/our_work/DMM/MAD/Counter trafficking%20Data%20Brief%20081217.pdf