Inspiring lecture on health care for victims of human trafficking

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Ihmiskauppa, Ihmiskaupan vastainen työ, Countertrafficking, Trafficking in Human Beings, Hanni Stoklosa

On Thursday morning an enthusiastic audience of health and social workers, and representatives from organizations and institutions had a chance to listen to American expert on human trafficking, MD, MPH Hanni Stoklosa lecture. The workshop was held at THL, the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki.

Stoklosa works as a doctor in an emergency department in Boston and says she realized that there were victims of trafficking amongst her patients only after working some time.

“I was a Harvard-trained doctor and I knew nothing about this – it was appalling!”

Sha says that spreading the knowledge and doing research on the health care of victims of human trafficking has become her calling in life.

Stoklosa says that victims of trafficking can react in very different ways, ranging from docile to aggressive.

According to her, medical professionals have both an excellent opportunity and a responsibility to identify victims of trafficking and helping them get the care they need. She points out that the physical trauma is easier to treat – the mental scars can last for a life time.

“They are also invisible, and few people admit to them, so you have to be aware of the signs of depression for instance.”

She quoted a survey that showed that an astounding 71% of victims of trafficking said that they are still afraid of their traffickers even after had gotten out of the trafficking situation. To use trauma-informed care in the treatment of these patients is very important.

One thing she wanted to underline was that doctors and nurses must change the point of view when it comes to victims of trafficking, or of abuse in general.

“The goal is not disclosure, to do a diagnosis. We need to plant seed that keep the door open for them to return – we have to build trust for that to happen.”

In the afternoon the workshop continued with case studies in smaller groups and discussions on how professionals working with victims of trafficking can support their recovery and alleviate the consequences of trauma.

The workshop was a cooperation between IOM Finland, THL and the US Embassy in Finland.

IOM's Jaana Sipilä and Hanni Stoklosa talked about the HOIKU-projects as one resource for professionals wanting to know more

You can read more about how health and social workers can recognize and help victims of human trafficking on our HOIKU-project pages.