Child sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children are major public health issues in the United States. Health care providers are often the only professionals to interact with trafficking victims and they are in a position to see things that others will not.
Emerging evidence suggests that a high percentage of child victims of sex trafficking in the United States seek medical attention, and they do so in a variety of settings. Most visit emergency rooms and about 35% go to outpatient facilities. (“Sex trafficking in the United States: Challenges for the healthcare provider;” V.J. Greenbaum, 2017).
Health issues seen in trafficking victims include but are not limited to the follow:
- Sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, pelvic pain, rectal trauma and urinary difficulties from working in the sex industry.
- Pregnancy, resulting from rape or prostitution
- Infertility from chronic untreated sexually transmitted infections or botched or unsafe abortions.
- Malnourishment and serious dental problems. These are especially acute with child trafficking victims who often suffer from retarded growth and poorly formed or rotted teeth.
- Bruises, scars and other signs of physical abuse and torture. Sex-industry victims are often beaten in areas that won’t damage their outward appearance, like the lower back.
- Substance abuse problems or addictions either from being coerced into drug use by their traffickers or by turning to substance abuse to help cope with or mentally escape their desperate situations.
- Psychological trauma from daily mental abuse and torture including depression, stress-related disorders, disorientation, confusion, phobias, and panic attacks.
- Feelings of helplessness, shame humiliation, shock, denial or disbelief.
If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the Human Trafficking Hotline Number at 1-888-373-7888. This hotline will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking, will identify local resources available in your community to help victims, and will help you coordinate with local social service organizations to help protect and serve victims so they can begin the process of restoring their lives.
(Indicators from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services)