Last Saturday about 50 of us gathered at the beautiful Elon Global Commons facility to go deeper in learning how to respond to human trafficking victims in a trauma-informed, victim-centered manner in the medical community.
Our guests, mostly health care professionals, were welcomed to our conference with a table full of breakfast foods and coffee (thanks Starbucks!) prepared by our AMAZING team of volunteers who always serve with willing and joyful hearts. The conference was intended as a follow-up event to the several "HT 101" awareness presentations given by our Medical Outreach Team at their 1-hour "Lunch & Learn's" at Kernodle Clinic in Burlington.
The first speaker, Courtney Dunkerton, shared the services Alamance For Freedom offers and how the medical community can engage those services. She also highlighted trends in human trafficking in North Carolina and the types of cases AFF is seeing in the community.
Tanya Street , survivor, advocate and international speaker shared with us her own powerful story of recruitment into "the life." She highlighted the pimp's strategy of using her own history to his advantage, thereby creating formidable trauma bonds and a desperate felt need of obligation to him. She educated us on how she, as an advocate, engages victims who are in the process of leaving their traffickers. Most powerful to many of us was how she turned her own experience into helping other victims see and understand their own exploitive relationship with their pimps.
Shannon Harty LCSW spoke to us about the Effects of Trauma on the Brain, especially how to see past the patients' "bad" behavior and to dig deeper with the intent to reach the real underlying problems. Next, Megan Johnson, Chief Operating Officer of Carter's Circle of Care in Greensboro, NC, talked to us about positive, tolerable and toxic stress: how to distinguish between them, how it relates to patients and care givers. She also talked about dealing with compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout in working with clients and patients. She pressed the importance of institutions practicing Trauma Informed Care.
Ms. Street was invited to jump in during this last segment with commentary on how a trafficked victim may present in a health care setting and how her trauma played a part in her own story. This was a great application of TIC to victim service practice.
Afterwards, Tanya and I chatted about the event and she gave me some feedback about the presentations and the services AFF provides. She made a comment that I found very powerful and one I had not heard before. She said "You take this issue very seriously and there are a lot of groups dealing with this topic that don't--but you all are and you have no idea how empowering that is to me as a survivor."
For us at Alamance For Freedom, that was all the feedback we needed to hear.