It is important to build rapport with individuals and create a safe environment. You can do this by:
- Supporting the individual in feeling physically comfortable; for example, offer them water, show them where the restrooms are located, and periodically ask if they need anything.
- Being aware of your verbal and nonverbal cues; it is important to maintain a calm tone, eye contact, and a warm, neutral facial expression. Similarly, respect personal space, refrain from touching, and remain at eye level as much as possible.
- Monitoring the individual’s verbal and nonverbal cues for signs of physical or emotional discomfort. When needed, use trauma management response techniques. Be careful to match the individual’s pace and mirror the language they use. When needed, offer the individual a break from the interview and the opportunity to choose between a male or a female interviewer.
- Exploring safety concerns with the individual. Inform the individual that you are concerned for their safety and well-being and that you can connect them with appropriate and confidential service resources. Safety planning involves helping individuals anticipate and plan ahead for potentially escalating levels of danger before, during, or after leaving a dangerous situation.
When your organizational setting permits, it is important to establish a systemwide policy to see patients or clients alone for at least part of every visit to protect their privacy and safety. Ways to support this shift in organizational culture and practice include:
- Posting signs that outline the policy in common areas (waiting rooms, exam rooms).
- Orienting staff to the policy change and why it’s important.
- Conducting assessments and interventions only when alone with individuals.
Components of a Separation Protocol
In some settings, it is difficult or impossible to ensure every individual receives a private screening. Therefore, it is critical that every provider has a protocol in place for having a private conversation with an individual if you suspect that they are with their possible trafficker. This plan should allow the provider to examine or question the individual they believe is a victim of trafficking in a private, safe environment. The plan needs to cover who will carry out the actual separation process and what will occur if the person accompanying the individual refuses to leave their side. You will also need to obtain informed consent when working with adults and contact local child protective services in the case of a minor who may have experienced trafficking.
Remember that human trafficking is a crime and traffickers may be armed or violent. Before applying the safety component, providers need to work with hospital security and local, tribal, and federal law enforcement, if applicable.
Providers need to conduct a safety check with the patient/client. Before conducting a safety check, be sure to explain confidentiality between you and the patient/client. When conducting an in-person safety check, consider the following questions:
- Do you feel like you are in any kind of danger while speaking with me at this location?
- Is there anything that would help you to feel safer while we talk?
- Are you able to take any resources with you when you leave here?
- Is it safe to contact you after today? If so, what is the best way to reach you? If over the phone, can I leave a voicemail? If I can contact you, how would you like me to identify myself?
For safety checks conducted via phone, remind the individual that they are free to hang up at any point during the conversation if they believe someone is listening in or they are in danger. Then, ask the following questions:
- Is it safe for you to speak with me right now?
- How can we communicate if we get disconnected? Would I be able to call you back or leave a message?
- If someone comes on the line, what would you like for me to do? Hang up? Identify myself as someone else, such as a certain person or friend?
- Are you in a safe place? Can you tell me where you are? Would you prefer to call me back when you are in a safe place?
- Is it safe for you to write down any resources that could help you?
- Are you injured? Would you like for me to call 911 or an ambulance?
Safety planning should be conducted by trained professionals. Offer to connect your patient/client to The National Human Trafficking Hotline or local experts from your referral network for assistance with safety planning. Although a person may not be in imminent danger, you can inform persons at risk of trafficking about available resources if they find themselves in a potential trafficking circumstance using a Universal Education approach.
The following resources offer additional information on safety planning:
- Health, Education, Advocacy, Linkage (HEAL) Trafficking and Hope for Justice's Protocol Toolkit
- The National Human Trafficking Hotline Safety Planning and Prevention Handout
- Safety Planning: The Advocates for Human Rights
- National Indian Country Clearinghouse on Sexual Assault Safety Tips and Safety Planning
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