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Educating Others on Human Trafficking

January 31, 2018
Sara Hein, BSN, RN, FNE-A/P
Sara Hein, BSN, RN, FNE-A/P likes to listen more than she likes to talk. This comes in handy when her patients who have been sexually assaulted or abused finally get a chance to express themselves. “Many times, this person has been isolated, controlled, with no one to talk to because of their abuser,” she said. “When someone is brought to the hospital, they may want to go through their thoughts and feelings. They aren’t necessarily looking for verbal response. It’s important to be really patient with them during this life-changing event.”

It was listening to a heartbreaking patient story as a staff nurse on the child and adolescent psychiatric unit that got Sara interested in becoming a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) nurse. She was asked to sit in on an FBI interview with a 16-year-old girl who was a victim of human trafficking, a form of modern slavery in which humans are transported illegally from one country to another, often for the purpose of forced sexual exploitation. The young girl was exhausted, underfed, and badly bruised from being beaten with a pistol. Sara was struck by the sadness in her eyes and touched by her story. “She really believed that her “pimp” cared about her and loved her unconditionally,” Sara said.

It only takes one person to recognize that something is not right with a patient and to step in and make a difference
Soon after that interview, Sara joined GBMC’s SAFE team and now makes it her responsibility to educate others on how to intervene to reduce human trafficking. “It’s important to learn the signs of trafficking so that we can help end suffering as soon as possible,” she said. “Victims of trafficking typically only receive healthcare when they have a very serious condition. At that point, they are usually accompanied by someone who keeps them from reporting the crime, maybe even their abuser. It only takes one person to recognize that something is not right with a patient and to step in and make a difference.”

Sara is passionate about breaking “the vicious cycle” of sexual abuse and domestic violence, too. She sees patients who have been assaulted repeatedly by the same perpetrator but are too afraid to file a police report. Though it’s rewarding when she provided patients with a sense of safety, even for just a short period of time in the hospital, she prefers working as a team with law enforcement and bringing suspects to justice.

According to Sara, reducing these crimes and getting abusers sentenced begins with spreading knowledge and awareness throughout the community to reduce the stigmas associated with rape, sexual abuse, and intimate partner violence. “Someone you know may have been a victim,” she says. “But these issues aren’t talked about, so it can be hard for people to know how to make a difference.”

Join Sara and the rest of the SAFE team as they march against rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and intimate partner violence on April 21, 2018 at GBMC’s third annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®. Click here to register and fundraise.

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