The trafficking victim is most likely to have received medical treatment in an emergency room during their captivity. Recent reports suggest that over 87.8% of victims came into contact with a healthcare provider while enslaved but were not identified as a victim.1,2,9 This healthcare treatment visit is a prime opportunity for a healthcare provider to recognize a trafficking victim and secure the needed assistance for the victim.36 There is what is termed a “seasoning” period that the perpetrator uses to break the will of the victim and often verbal, physical and sexual abuse resulting in physical harm to the victim.8 This could be the reason and timing of the visits to the emergency rooms, or in some cases to the dental school clinics or offices due to facial, mouth, head or tooth injury. Emergency room doctors and nurses who received education in detecting and assisting trafficking victims reported significant increases in confidence levels leading to better detection of victims and higher probability of obtaining long-term assistance for these patients.1,2,36
The medical community has far more opportunity to assess the physical damage of a possible trafficking victim since the team may be treating more medical complaints such as broken limbs, general health complaints and obvious complaints that would warrant a hospital or urgent care facility in the treatment of these individuals. The dental office will usually be contacted because of tooth related issues, perhaps oral trauma or infections (maybe an abscess causing pain or an inflammatory process).
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