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  • Writer's pictureSavannah Parvu

Challenges Seeking Medical Care After Being Trafficked

Thank you to everyone who reached out in support of this blog series, The Things Nobody Tells You About Surviving Human Trafficking.  Your support and encouragement have motivated me to continue and you proved that this is a needed topic to cover.


I want to start by talking a little more about a couple things I mentioned in my previous post.  The first thing I mentioned was that no matter how much time passes and how much healing work we do, the pain never truly goes away.  This is a harsh reality that survivors of human trafficking must live with.  I’ve gotten a point in my life where it has been over a decade since I’ve been trafficked, I’ve done years of therapy, tons of speaking, advocacy and mentoring, but there are still sporadic times that the pain of what happened to me takes my breath away and I hate it, but it's real.  I haven’t met another survivor yet who feels any different. 


In my last post I also mentioned that many survivors end up being exploited again, but this time for their story.  The thing I want to add to that is it’s important to know that survivors who choose to speak also have a wealth of expertise beyond their exploitation story. We offer unique insights and knowledge based on our lived experiences. While our exploitation stories hold significance, it is essential to recognize that we bring more than just those narratives to the table. When we engage in events, we should not be separated from other experts because we, too, bring expertise to the conversation.


Another thing nobody tells you about surviving human trafficking is that it’s going to make most, if not all areas of your life more difficult.  Some normal everyday life situations are going to be more difficult for survivors of human trafficking.  In the same way, complicated situations are going to be even more complicated for human trafficking survivors.  The good news is we are survivors, and we learn how to adjust, adapt and deal as we go.  


Throughout the years, I have faced numerous medical challenges, worsened by past trauma, making it even harder to address them. Simple tasks like calling to schedule appointments can feel overwhelming and often get postponed because those are calls that I often feel uncomfortable making.  Just the idea of calling to schedule an appointment and having to talk to an unfamiliar person about personal information causes me anxiety. 


I’ve had many negative experiences with doctors and medical professionals in the past, which made anything to do with getting medical care seem like a daunting task.  When I was a teenager in foster care and was taken to the hospital with broken bones I was treated poorly because the hospital staff were told that I did it myself, which was not always the case.  One doctor even told me I was wasting his time for being there because there were patients who needed his help and he shouldn’t have to help someone who injures themselves.


One time after I finally got the courage to tell my doctor about the abuse that had recently taken place, she ran several tests on me and sent me to get an HIV test.  The lady who drew my blood laughed and said to me, “I know it sucks getting tested, but at least the fact that you need to be tested means you had fun.”  That lady had absolutely no idea what I had just been through or what it took for me to even go to the appointment to get my blood drawn.  I remember thinking that I would never go to the doctor again after that because I was so humiliated and felt so ashamed. 


It took time, but I've realized the importance of finding doctors I’m comfortable with and who I trust, even if it means traveling further rather than settling for the nearest provider who accepts my insurance. Fortunately, I've found a fantastic primary care provider and a team of exceptional specialists who I feel comfortable with and who ensure my medical needs are met. Without this incredible medical team, I wouldn't feel comfortable enough to tackle my health concerns as they arise.


Before I found providers who I was comfortable with I often put off addressing problems I was having.  I would refuse tests and procedures that needed to be done because I don’t like being touched and the anxiety was too much.  There are a lot of medical tests and procedures that are uncomfortable and difficult for people without trauma, let alone for human trafficking survivors.


Prior to any medical appointment or tests that I need to have done, I must mentally prepare myself for what to expect.  If I don’t know what is going to happen ahead of time and I don’t have time to prepare myself, it normally gives me extreme anxiety and makes me shutdown.  This is something most of my healthcare providers have become aware of and do their best to let me know what to expect ahead of time so that I can mentally prepare.


In 2017 when I had to have a complete hysterectomy, that would have been nearly impossible for me if I didn’t have a doctor there with me who I trusted and was comfortable with.  You can read more about that experience by clicking the box below.

Filling out medical forms has become difficult task for me because even now with as much as I’ve done publicly, there are still times I don’t feel like being associated with my past. Sometimes I don't want to be known as a 'human trafficking survivor' or I just don’t feel like being associated with it that day.  It’s difficult to explain, but it’s something that has recently started bothering me and this is the first time I'm sharing it. 


While I have had a lot of negative experiences surrounding medical care, I’m grateful for my current team and I know I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am without them.  I’ve known my current primary care provider the least amount of time and she has quickly made me feel comfortable.  I didn’t even tell her about my history, she saw it on her own via a press conference I did, and she has been encouraging and supportive all along. 

I have an amazing breast surgeon I see twice a year for the last 5-6 years and if it weren’t for her being the amazing doctor she is, I would never make it for those tests or appointments because they are super uncomfortable.  She showed she cared about my since the first day I met her. Each time I see her she asks me when I'm going to text her my next blog post, article, interview, press conference or whatever it may be.

I’ve known my Cardiologist the longest and he is the first male doctor that I’ve had where I’ve always felt extremely comfortable.  I remember at my first appointment with him 10+ years ago before he listened to my heart, he asked for my permission to examine me, which is something nobody had ever done before and it meant a lot to me and it's something I will never forget.


While I no longer go to an OB/GYN since I’ve had a hysterectomy, that doctor will always be one of my favorites and I’m thankful that I now get to call her my friend.  I love the the friendship we’ve formed over years, and I will always be forever grateful for her.  I don’t know that I would be doing as well as I am without her.


 There’s so much more I could share regarding challenges seeking medical care as well as good experiences I’ve had along the way. I may share more in a future posts as I feel comfortable. 


If you have specific questions, you would like me to address in one of my next posts feel free to comment or send them to me at




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1 Comment

May 07

Thanks for providing that perspective. It gave me things to think about and consider that I had not before.

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