Human trafficking victim works with Dignity Health in San Francisco to help others

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One of the leaders in the fight against human trafficking was a victim herself years ago. Now, she's training others at Dignity Health in San Francisco to recognize those who need help. (KGO-TV)

A fundraiser took place in San Francisco on Friday to help solve a growing problem - human trafficking. And as we found out, one of the leaders in the fight was a victim herself years ago, who's now training others to recognize those who need help.

"I was lured away from home by a man I met at my local shopping mall when I was 14 years old," said Holly Gibbs.

She had dreams of being a star. The man promised to take her to Hollywood.

"But within hours of running away, I was forced into prostitution in Atlantic City, New Jersey," she said.

It lasted only two days before she was arrested and then given help. But many aren't so lucky.

Human trafficking happens right here in the Bay Area. And it often ends with raids and the victims in handcuffs.

"Had they been identified and had they been connected with the right resources and approached in the right way, maybe they wouldn't have been trafficked for 10 years," she said.

Gibbs is now directing a training program at Dignity Health.

Trafficking victims often wind up in the emergency room -- sometimes alone -- and sometimes with the person holding them captive.

"If that person's answering all the questions, taking control, not allowing the victim to answer the questions, looking for bruising, maybe afraid to say things," said emergency room nurse director Michael Thomas.

Hospital staff is learning those signs and how to discretely offer help.

"The person that's with them may need to stay there, and we can ask questions while we're on our way to x-ray," said Thomas.

The human trafficking initiative is one of three parts of Dignity Health's new philanthropy program, each with something in common. They're all serious problems that patients may not readily admit to.

"These aren't gonna surface automatically,"

Student athletes are often afraid to report concussions, for fear of getting sidelined. There's a program to diagnose those. And one to look for postpartum depression in new moms.

But there may be nothing like the shame felt by some trafficking victims.

"I didn't think think, 'Oh my gosh I'm a victim of a crime,'" said Gibbs. "I thought, 'Oh my gosh I'm so stupid, I can't believe I fell for this.'"

That's why Dignity Health is raising money.

"(To ) help make sure they have access to housing, to job training, to those other larger societal needs that are beyond the walls of the hospital," said Dignity Health Foundation Vice President Nancy Bussani.

And it all starts with knowing what to look for.

"Even if it's just one person, then we've done a good job," said Thomas.
Related Topics:
newsHuman Traffickingcrimesex crimesex crimeshospitalSan Francisco
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