UPDATE: Mercy anti-human trafficking co-ordinator discusses new program
Teresa Davidson holds weekly meetings with sex trafficking survivors.
One of them says, "I fell in love with this man that told me he would provide everything I needed, and everything that I was missing in my life, and then he completely switched on me one day and started pimping me."
That led to physical and mental abuse, even multiple trips to the hospital, but she says none of the nurses or doctors made an attempt rescue her.
She says, "None of the health care professionals not even the police kind of treated me like I was a victim. It was more so, you're a prostitute, you put yourself in that situation."
Her boyfriend eventually let her go, and she was able to get her life together. She's hoping Mercy's new position could save others sooner.
She says of the position and Mercy, "Somewhere where they feel like they can talk come to and talk, you know about what they're going through, and feel like they have a safe haven or a home."
One thing Davidson is training staff on is noticing when a person feels like they're somebody else's property. They will then talk to them alone, and see what they can do.
She says of the signs, "A person would come in and wouldn't make eye contact, wouldn't be allowed to speak for themselves, wouldn't be in control of their identification or money."
Causey has two kids, and is about to start law school. She wants victims to know there's a way out. Her advice, “Speak up. Whether it's through your eye gesture or something, to let somebody know, you are not ok."
Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids has announced they've added a new staff position to address human trafficking.
Teresa Davidson, ARNP, MSN, MA, nurse practitioner at Mercy, has been hired part-time as the hospital’s anti-human trafficking coordinator. Davidson will lead the efforts to strengthen the comprehensive response to victims of human trafficking at the hospital.
Davidson is also a member of the Iowa National Anti-Human Trafficking (NAHT) Board and the executive director of Chains Interrupted.
The position is the first hospital-based position of its kind in Iowa and is one of few in the country.
“We know there is a great need for community response and collaboration on this growing problem," Davidson said. “Human trafficking is really a modern-day form of slavery and there’s a huge need for a united effort to address the safety needs of the victims and develop a comprehensive response to the problem.”
Some of Davidson's goals are to create protocols for Mercy and its clinics, as well as create education for staff who are likely to come in contact with victims of human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is a problem that goes unseen for most of us; yet, we know it affects many innocent victims,” said Sr. Susan O’Connor, vice president of mission integration at Mercy. “I appreciate Teresa’s commitment to helping Mercy confront this problem and provide more education. I look forward to the positive effect this new position will have on our community and our state.”
Since human trafficking is an underground crime, the Iowa Attorney General's Office says it happens in every town in every state to some extent.
Davidson will also work part-time in Mercy’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) while also working part-time in the anti-human trafficking position.