“Every medical professional I seemed to run into I felt like didn’t have the information they needed. They either didn’t know how to help me, or they didn’t know what to look for to know I needed help.”
I cannot tell you how many times throughout my interactions with my traffickers and clients I sought medical attention and felt a panic rising in my chest as I spoke with them. The warning voice in the back of my head screamed that they would not believe me. They could not be trusted. They would not know what to do. They would not know what to look for and I was not capable of telling them what I needed.
These fears were reinforced as doctor after doctor ignored my panic attacks, improperly healed wounds, and extensive scarring. My stories with holes big enough for trains to drive through them were taken as fact. My abusers often spoke for me.
I remember wondering to myself as a teenager how people who spent so much time in school could be so stupid. I know that is harsh, and part of that was the teenager in me, but I was genuinely astounded by the lack of knowledge in them that I now know is not their fault. No amount of schooling will prepare you to recognize signs of sex trafficking if that is not part of the curriculum. They could not learn what they were not being taught.
I’ve had to learn grace and patience when dealing with medical professionals. It isn’t that they don’t care, it’s that so many of them do not know. I’ve had to learn to replace suspicion and anger directed at them with communication. Doctors are not mind readers. They cannot diagnose based on symptoms they cannot see and have not been told about. They cannot give me what I need over the course of exams if I do not voice what it is that I need.
I am working with organizations like Safe House Project and OnWatch to help create curriculums for these medical professionals to be equipped with the knowledge that I needed them to have when I was being victimized. In the meantime, I am learning to have better communication with my providers and use the voice that I have learned I have in order to advocate for myself and my needs.