Deb Holbrook examines a victim.

Donor Impact On
Community Safety

Last year, domestic abuse accounted for 21% of all violent crime across Baltimore City, according to the Baltimore Police Department. As a member of the medical community with an historic commitment to the welfare of the City, Mercy plays a significant role in interrupting cycles of abuse.

The health care setting offers a unique opportunity to intervene in abusive situations, as anecdotal evidence from experts shows that victims are more likely to request help from a medical professional than from domestic violence centers or law enforcement.

Mercy’s Blue Dot Human Trafficking Initiative serves Baltimore.

By employing an average of nine on-call Family Violence Response Program Advocates and more than 30 specially trained Forensic Nurse Examiners, Mercy can offer victims round-the-clock assistance. Our programs serve victims of sexual assault aged 13 and older. They also help survivors of domestic violence, abused and neglected elders, institutionalized vulnerable persons, and victims of human trafficking.

Mercy works collaboratively with community partners and criminal justice agencies to address victims’ various and complex needs. Thanks to our generous funders, we are able to help more than 600 victims each year.

The Family Violence Response Program staff provide crisis intervention, advocacy, danger assessment, safety planning, and short-term follow-up. They also connect victims to community partners for shelter, legal services, and resources such as affordable mental health care, local support groups, and books or websites with useful information.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented a national award to the Forensic Nursing team.

The Forensic Nurse Examiner Program is comprised of a skilled team who specialize in performing medical exams and treatments, and collecting and documenting crucial time-sensitive evidence of assault. The only comprehensive program of its kind, Mercy’s forensic services include photographing and documenting wounds using Alternate Light Source technology, testing for STIs and pregnancy, and helping with affidavits for victims who wish to apply for legal asylum. The entire exam process is confidential and does not require that a victim report anything to the police, but evidence is stored for up to 75 years in case an investigation is desired.

Lauren Brown leads the Family Violence Response Program.

These programs provide victims with tools to achieve safety, wellness, and justice,” says Lauren Brown, Coordinator of the Family Violence Response Program.

“We are grateful to funders who make it possible for Mercy to offer these life-saving services.”

Debra Holbrook, MSN, RN, SANE-A, FNE, A/P, DF-AFN, FAAN, is the Director of Forensic Nursing at Mercy. With more than 30 years of experience, Ms. Holbrook has pioneered the use of Alternate Light Source technology—which allows for the detection of bruises hidden under a victim’s skin—in strangulation cases that set precedent in Maryland court systems.

Thanks to a very generous grant, Mercy was able to pilot an Alternative Light Source program in the early 2000s that has since impacted tens of thousands of lives,” Ms. Holbrook says. “The National Institute of Justice is currently conducting a research study into Mercy’s forensic programming to help standardize the use of such evidence in criminal prosecutions nationwide.

A grantor also helped Mercy develop our Blue Dot program—named for the blue sticker any patient suspected of being trafficked received on their file. This alerted medical staff to the need for discreet intervention. The Blue Dot program was so successful that Mercy staff went on to host workshops on the topic for Baltimore City police, other medical facilities, local universities, the FBI, and Homeland Security.

Ms. Holbrook recalls a recent Blue Dot intervention that saved the life of a human trafficking victim:

A young woman from South America was brought to Mercy’s Emergency Department as a victim of extreme abuse. With the help of a bilingual team member, we discovered that this patient was being blackmailed and prostituted by an abuser who threatened the life of her toddler. Our staff spent hours with the victim, explaining her rights. Grant funds helped purchase a disposable cell phone and 90-day data plan so she could connect with Catherine’s Cottage for shelter and TurnAround, Inc. for therapy sessions. We also connected her with Asylee Women’s Enterprises, Tahiri Justice Center, and Intercultural Counseling Connection for legal aid. Our staff thoroughly treated and then documented her injuries so that she could apply for an emergency T-Visa for herself and asylum for her son. Thankfully, both are now safe.

Mercy is proud to note that last year, Ms. Holbrook and her team received the prestigious Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. This outstanding achievement is a testament to their unwavering commitment to exceptional care and community safety.

Whether Mercy is helping victims who live right down the street or people who are trafficked from very far away,” Ms. Holbrook says, “the critical work we do to protect victims is made possible thanks to generous supporters who want to make the world safer.

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