Vol 23, 2014 Annals of Health Law 83
HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF SEX TRAFFICKING
Building trust with possible victims is a critical first step and requires
patience and cultural sensitivity on the part of medical professionals:
Building trust with trafficking victims may be a slow process and
requires patience and determination. Taking the time to build rapport is
critical. . . . The [health care provider] must have the humility to accept
and acknowledge that there may be much about the victim’s culture they
do not understand, and that the impact of such taboos may be significant
in that culture. Many small steps are needed to build trust, such as open-
ended questions, few interruptions, and a private area to talk. Often more
than one visit is needed, and the victim may need to be told to return to
the clinic to reevaluate a health care issue when the HCP strongly
suspects trafficking and further assessment and questioning is desired to
get a patient to open up. Messages for the HCP to convey in private with
a suspected victim include a focus on safety, getting healthy, and that the
victim’s welfare is the highest priority. 55
Because traffickers often accompany victims to treatment and their
presence may prevent truthful answers, victims should be interviewed in
private if at all possible. 56 Separation should be done discreetly, 57 perhaps
by requesting that the male figure assist with paperwork or remain in the
waiting room while staff obtain specimens. 58
Asking directly whether the patient is a victim of trafficking may be
meaningless and directly asking about the most traumatic aspects of
trafficking is also “ill-advised.” 59 Rather, a serious of “sensitive probing
questions” can help uncover or unpack the underlying trafficking situation.
For example, the health care sector can borrow from the law profession.
Legal aid attorneys working on custody cases noted that when gathering the
facts about an abusive husband or boyfriend to help a client gain custody of
her child, facts patterns emerged that made it clear that the client was a
victim of sex trafficking. The victim did not come through the door self-identifying as a trafficking victim, but slowly over the course of
conversation, understood her victimization and was able to seek help from
law enforcement to emerge from the trafficking situation. Gradually
working with the victim’s identifiable health problems to elicit important
facts about their over-arching situation is likely to be most effective and
55. Crane & Moreno, supra note 54, at 7-8.
56. Id. at 9.
57. Cole, supra note 21, at 467.
58. Crane & Moreno, supra note 54, at 9.