How would you picture a human trafficking victim? Do they look exhausted, with bags under their eyes? Are they bruised and beaten? Do they have a short skirt and stiletto heels on? Or are these simply stereotypes?
The medical drama series Grey’s Anatomy featured a patient, Sydney, who was a victim of human trafficking . They portrayed what a victim of human trafficking might go though should they come to the hospital for treatment. Although this one of the most hidden crimes on the planet, and it wouldn’t be fair to stereotype these victims or to put them into categories, there are common signs of human trafficking, some of which the show touched on.
The scene starts out with the victim lying in a hospital bed with her “aunt” standing next to her. Dr. Andrew DeLuca, played by Giacomo Gianniotti, began asking her questions. The first sign of human trafficking that was shown in this episode was the fact that Sydney’s “aunt” was answering all the questions for her. Her aunt informed Dr. DeLuca that she had abandonment issues since she was four years old, due to her parents leaving. Was the fact that Sydney was reluctant to answer any questions suspicious to any of you who watched the episode? Why wouldn’t she allow Sydney the opportunity to speak for herself? Her “aunt’s” excuse was that Sydney’s not “used to being around cute doctors” and that she was “embarrassed” she may have a UTI (although she really needed surgery for a hernia). To someone not familiar with human trafficking, these sound like valid excuses. However, the way they had the actress play this character seemed to be very accurate of someone who exercises control over their victims by becoming their voice. Sydney had fear in her eyes when Dr. DeLuca would ask her questions. So much so, she would immediately turn to her aunt as opposed to speaking for herself. She looked exhausted and fearful the entire episode.. Some may say she just looked like she was in pain and that there was no need for concern; as many of the staff who worked alongside Dr. DeLuca said. Victims, such as ones in a hospital, can look like regular patients, but there are still distinguishing factors that identify them as a victim. Another sign of human trafficking was the fact that her “aunt” was afraid to leave her alone. She wanted to go into surgery with her and wanted to take her to the bathroom herself. She likely feared that Sydney would say something to the doctors and reveal that she is in fact a victim. For those of you that watched, is that a thought that crossed your mind when watching that scene? Security showed up at the hospital and Dr. DeLuca directed them to arrest Sydney’s “aunt.” The other doctors didn’t believe DeLuca and they joined hands and formed a human chain around him rather than the “aunt.”
Chief Bailey threatened to suspend DeLuca if he didn’t back down and stop accusing the woman of being a trafficker. They let Sydney and her “aunt” go. The womn gripped her arm and aggressively asked her what she said to the doctor. Sydney was adamant that she didn’t say anything but the woman portraying to be her aunt didn’t believe her. Sydney expressed that she was still in pain but the alleged trafficker told her that it was her fault, and without getting Sydney’s much needed surgical treatment they left the hospital in a haste. Dr. Miranda Bailey played by Chandra Wilson, announced that she called the human trafficking hotline upon learning that Sydney was no longer in the hospital and that DeLuca may have in fact been correct. The fact that the remainder of the hospital did not believe him proves that education about trafficking is imperative. This was a textbook case of what medical professionals can look out for in order to identify victims. Before Dr. DeLuca stated that he believed this was a human trafficking case, would you have said this was a trafficking victim? The doctors at the hospital symbolize many of us today; in that, a vast majority of us are ignorant in regard to identifying victims of this crime.
If you are anything like I was, you didn’t know that there were things you should be looking out for. You maybe even mislabeled trafficking victims like most of the world does. But that truth is, trafficking hides in plain sight. We want to help you learn the signs and hear stories straight from the overcomers themselves, through our film Sold Next Door. For everyone who subscribes to our monthly newsletter, you will have temporary access to the film… your life will be changed! We also offer free webinars for children, teachers, parents, community workers, and medical professionals to help teach you the signs of human trafficking and how you can fight against it in your career.
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