500 healthcare providers pack human trafficking summit

Organizers: Identifying victims could lead to a way out

SAN ANTONIO – The fact that 500 health care providers packed Tuesday’s human-trafficking summit at the University of the Incarnate Word is seen by organizers as a sign of how much they care about the victims.

“They’ve identified this being a special population and they want more information,” said Shelley Botello, the coordinator of the sexual assault forensic nurse examiner program at Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital.

Botello said when she began asking some sexual assault victims how many partners they’ve had, “It was staggering -- 100, 150, 200.”

She said it shocked even her, after being a forensic nurse examiner since 1993.
“That’s why we found it was very important to bring this to other health care providers that don’t work in the field,” Botello said.

For that reason, Botello said she and others organized the summit working with the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking.

Former State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the event’s keynote speaker, passed legislation making the crime easier to prosecute.

But Van de Putte said what’s still needed is “how to intervene and then how to heal survivors.”
“We’re learning what questions to ask, what signs to look for,” said Angela Pena, a pediatric nurse.

Botello said by knowing how to approach the victims, they can identify more human trafficking victims and perhaps offer them a way out. 

She said, “We’re able to give them the resources and tell them there is hope.”