CINCINNATI -- The trauma of human trafficking can take victims years to recover from, and the shame can drive them into silence instead of toward help. The National Human Trafficking Hotline received more than 1,000 calls from Ohio in 2016, but there could be many more.
Bhumika Patel, a regional specialist with the Salvation Army's anti-trafficking program, is just one of the local women who work to help trafficking victims find resources for support and recovery. The Salvation Army has helped 150 people in 2017, finding them through outreach and assisting them as they navigate the court system in search of justice.
But for many victims, the first stop isn't at a charity. It's a hospital.
"They'll end up here because it's gotten to the point that they're so sick," forensic nurse examiner coordinator Jenn Hall said.
Most victims she sees through TriHealth's Center for Abuse and Rape Emergency Services -- CARES -- are malnourished and anxious to the point of not being able to make eye contact, she said. Hall has already treated 400 in 2017.
"The number is huge this year," she said, although that doesn't mean there are more cases -- just more people seeking help. "It's definitely increasing over the last couple of years with everything that's happening in the media and all the people being accused of sexual assault."
Once a survivor makes it through the doors and receives treatment, medical staffers like Hall ask if they are safe to go home. If not, they connect them with shelter that is safe.
"They will stay in the emergency room for three days if there's a situation," Hall said. "The doctors here and my team have worked together to make sure that happens. … We're also extra witnesses in court."
If you or someone you know has been a victim of human trafficking, you can contact the Salvation Army at 513-800-1863 or online. You can also receive help from CARES at Bethesda North, Bethesda Arrow Springs and Bethesda Butler Hospital.