INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A human trafficking survivor who advocates for other survivors is speaking out against a state law that no longer requires doctors to report suspected adult human trafficking victims to police.
Tebogo “Tebby” Kaisara, 34, says the promise of a good life was ripped away from her at just 18 years old when she came to Chicago by herself from Botswana in 2004.
She said her own family lied to her and tricked her into the human trafficking trade. She ended up in Bloomington, Indiana, where she was forced into labor trafficking and worked day and night as a nanny.
“My documents were taken away from me. I did not have any money. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I was afraid,” Kaisara explained.
“I used to run errands for her, bring books for her at school, take care of her kids. Do a lot of activities in the house … house chores,” Kaisara said.
For almost 18 months, she endured abuse, too.
“She dropped a couch on me, and I fell from the first floor to the second floor. That hurt my back really bad,” Kaisara said.
When Kaisara was 20, the woman threw her out. A friend rescued Kaisara, who now works as a survivor’s advocate for human trafficking victims.
“I’m trying to bring awareness of human trafficking, because I feel like it’s an issue that has been overlooked,” Kaisara said.
Kaisara opposes a recent change in state law that means doctors are no longer required to report suspected adult human trafficking victims to police.
House Bill 1191, which was signed into law during the 2018 legislative session, amended the existing state law to remove the reporting requirement and add a section that makes it compulsory for practitioners to provide information about services and resources to suspected victims of human trafficking.
State Rep. Karen Engleman, a Republican from Corydon, authored that bill and told News 8 victims were afraid doctors would turn them in to the police. Supporters of the change to state law said it is meant to help victims not be afraid to get medical help.
“I don’t think that’s right. I think it should be reported as soon as anything you see, that you suspect has red flags for human trafficking. You have to report that,” Kaisara said.
To Kaisara, that call to police at the hospital could be a lifeline.
“We need help. It’s because maybe we’re scared. We’re with our traffickers around us. That’s why we want that first phone call to be made,” she said.
Kaisara wants to work with lawmakers on tougher penalties for traffickers.
If you or someone you know at any age is part of the human trafficking trade, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733. People can chat live 24 hours a day with an advocate here.