Human trafficking is mostly invisible to everyone but its victims. However, Mindy Lause, MSN, RN, of Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center, is among those educating health care professionals to its signs. Studies indicate about half of human trafficking victims are seen in a health care setting, but few providers are trained to recognize the red flags.
Mindy, AFN-C, FCN, SANE-A, SANE-P, is a forensic nurse examiner who has quite the resume.
She has attained certification in forensic nursing and in sexual assault of adults and children and manages our forensic nursing program. She is a co-chair of the Direct Services of Northern Ohio Regional Efforts Aimed to Combat Human Trafficking (REACH), a community coalition against human trafficking. Additionally, Mindy is a member the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission Health Care Subcommittee that educates and implements protocols so health care professionals can identify victims and intervene.
Because of human trafficking or other dangers and threats – sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse, child abuse, gang-related violence, non-fatal strangulation or workplace violence – victims of violence are wounded, and forensic nurse examiners help the healing begin.
“All too often, those who endure violence are overlooked and discredited,” Mindy shares. “Empathy, compassion and self-awareness are necessary when examining patients who have encountered violence.”
To advance their knowledge about the unique social injustice of human trafficking, Mindy and her team of four forensic nurse examiners prioritize in-person educational opportunities, such as with the International Human Trafficking Social Justice Conference and state Human Trafficking Summit(s). They also take advantage of online offerings from the Academy of Forensic Nurses and International Association of Forensic Nursing.
Mindy maintains violence is a health crisis that impacts millions, particularly women, the LGBTQ+ community and low-income people of color. Its victims are wounded, abused, neglected, killed, often at the hands of someone they trust.
“Violence is the greatest inequity in that it increases the risk of other medical illnesses, disrupts children’s learning and violence causes more violence,” Mindy shares.
At the same time, human trafficking infests all groups, regardless of race, class, socio-economic, gender, sexual orientation, age and ability. Not only do victims present with injuries, but also mental stress, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation and even untreated chronic diseases.
Mindy shares that the approach to treating a victim of human trafficking is a holistic one. Each nurse collaborates with others at the hospital, including clinical providers, chaplains, social workers and trauma therapists.
The patient’s safety and healing are the priority, as it can be difficult and dangerous for a victim to act. That’s why it’s important for health care professionals to remind an adult trafficked person the hospital is a safe place when they need help.
Outside the hospital, forensic nurses work with law enforcement, the justice system, spiritual leaders, mental health service providers, hospital systems, protective services, correctional facilities and psychiatric institutions to improve the community’s response to violence as well as to prevent it.
While it is difficult, Mindy feels she is drawn to this line of work.
“I am a faith-centric person. I have conquered dire adversities in my life – many surrounding violence. At times I felt hopeless and broken. Sometimes in the situations I encountered I felt as though my choice and voice were silenced. Through Christ, and with a little help from my friends, I was able to infuse meaning and purpose into those circumstances, which lead me to believe that anything is possible.”
Mindy continues, “patient by patient, our ministry learns something more about the human condition, how to mend it, how to rehabilitate it. The lesson we learn again and again, regardless of the situation or clinical presentation, is that violence is unjustified!”
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a resource available for both victims of human trafficking as well as those who suspect human trafficking. Call 1-888-373-7888 and report your information to the trained representative. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.