By Glenda Siegrist, DNP, MAC, NP-C
“Eighty percent of all victims of trafficking see a health care provider,” said Director of Hope for Justice Richard Schoeberl, Ph.D., during a recent conference hosted by his NGO—which works to eliminate trafficking in persons (TIP)—and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Victims’ Resource Advocacy Program.
When Embassy Quito medical provider Glenda Siegrist heard this statement, she realized there were important opportunities for Ecuadorian healthcare professionals to play a critical role in the fight against TIP, a form of modern-day slavery. Siegrist reached out to the conference hosts with an idea to address the issue in Ecuador, classified as a Tier 2 country in the latest TIP report. Working with Assistant Regional Security Officer–Investigations Rylan Hussey and Political Officer James Rider, Siegrist organized a virtual training symposium.
During the three-hour event, Dec. 9, 2020, Hope for Justice speakers, a prosecutor, and a victim advocate psychologist from the Ecuador Attorney General’s Office, trained 125 participants on how to spot the signs and red flags of victims in trafficking. Hope for Justice speakers also discussed strategies to help build trust and techniques to allay the victims’ fear. The prosecutor outlined several options for contacting help when interacting with a victim. The Ecuadorian psychologist noted that “the victim has been made invisible by authorities” for too long, stressing the importance of medical and legal professionals working together to help victims.
Attendees included Ecuadorian medical and nursing professionals from the public and private health systems and immigration, forensics, and refugee centers. Most of the participants work in emergency rooms and, as healthcare providers, are some of the few professionals likely to interact with trafficked individuals while they are still in captivity.
This collaboration expanded the community of advocates for change, paving the way for Ecuador to make real progress towards combating TIP.
Glenda Siegrist is the medical provider for Embassy Quito and Consulate General Guayaquil.