Webinar takes on sensitive topic of human trafficking

September 21, 2022
Most states require health care providers, including doctors of optometry, to report cases of abuse of children and elderly adults. AOA members are invited to attend an important webinar on the serious subject of human trafficking.
Stop human trafficking

Worldwide, there’s an estimated 24.9 million victims of human trafficking.

That exploitation is the subject of a webinar, “Human Trafficking—Panel Discussion,” Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. CT. Join the one-hour panel discussion, hosted by the AOA Education Center. Panelists will discuss what human trafficking is and how it can be stopped.

Among the panelists are Nicole Bowers Wallace, independent filmmaker and director of the feature film “Ring of Silence” about trafficking; a human trafficking survivor and victims’ advocate; a sexual assault nurse examiner; and a member of the police force who works undercover in human trafficking.

“For health care providers specifically, the panel discussion is important for them to recognize the signs a victim may present with,” Wallace says. “Additionally, I want them to understand that a victim may present for an appointment with an abuser. They should recognize that an abuser often attempts to control all communication by answering questions for them and not allowing the victim to be alone with anyone.

“It’s important for processes to be in place that create the necessity for a patient to be separated from a controller and create a safe space so that a victim may be able to communicate or give the office the opportunity to ask if a patient needs ‘help’ and report it to police,” she adds.

A responsibility to report

By the AOA Standards of Professional Conduct (under section C, beneficence) and the law, doctors of optometry can have a responsibility to report suspected abuse—of a child under 18, an adult and elder abuse—to designated authorities, depending on federal and individual state requirements.

In a case study prepared by the AOA Ethics & Values Committee, authors Morris Berman, O.D., M.S., and Amy Falk, O.D., explore how to delicately approach cases of suspected child and elder abuse and reporting the cases. The case study is available on EyeLearn, the AOA professional development hub.

“Knowledge of the law is important in these cases as state laws all require all ‘mandated individuals,’ including doctors of optometry, to report cases of suspected child abuse,” it reads. “This report does not require proof of abuse, only reasonable suspicion or the knowledge to suspect abuse. The report will need to be called in or submitted in a written format in order for an investigation to be undertaken. Reporting agencies will vary from state to state, but may be a child protective service, a county department of family and child services, or law enforcement.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1.888.373.7888.

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