Letters to the Editor

Physicians Must Be Vigilant for Sex Trafficking in Unaccompanied Minors

 

Am Fam Physician. 2015 May 15;91(10):674-676.

Original article: Caring for Unaccompanied Minors from Central America [Curbside Consultation]

Issue date: November 1, 2014

Available online at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/1101/p656.html

to the editor: We read with great interest the commentary describing challenges associated with caring for unaccompanied minors from Central America. The considerations also inform the care of minors involved in human trafficking, specifically domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST), who may also seek care from family physicians.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, unaccompanied minors are especially vulnerable to sexual violence, exploitation, and trafficking.1 Defined by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 as a “severe form of trafficking in persons,”2 DMST, in which minors are forced to participate in prostitution, pornography, or erotic entertainment, is one of the most common forms of human trafficking in the United States.3 A significant difference between the care of these patients and other unaccompanied minors is that the former requires an additional, crucial step: identification.

Minors who are exploited by DMST are not likely to disclose their status, especially while still being trafficked, which makes it difficult for clinicians to identify these patients when they present for care. Two studies found that 28% to 50% of trafficking survivors reported health care system encounters while they were being exploited.4 The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children conservatively estimates at least 100,000 children are exploited by DMST each year.5 Such numbers represent many missed opportunities to identify, care for, and potentially assist in freeing minors from this form of slavery.

Family physicians can prepare to recognize and care for this vulnerable, neglected population by utilizing suggested resources for general information and continuing education in Table 1. In doing so, to echo Drs. Bishop and Ramirez, we can help bring these patients “out of the shadows.”

View/Print Table

Table 1.

Resources for the Care of Victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking

SourceSponsorsWebsite

Caring for Trafficked Persons: Guidance for Health Providers

International Organization for Migration, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking

http://publications.iom.int/bookstore/free/CT_Handbook.pdf

Child Sex Trafficking Webinar Series

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

http://www.choa.org/csecwebinars

Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector

Institute of Medicine, National Research Council

http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Resources/SexTrafficking/guideforhealthcaresector.pdf

Human Trafficking Continuing Education

Christian Medical and Dental Associations

http://cmda.org/resources/publication/human-trafficking-continuing-education

National Human Trafficking Resource Center

Polaris Project

http://traffickingresourcecenter.org/

Rescue and Restore Campaign

Office of Refugee Resettlement

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/resource/about-rescue-restore

Table 1.

Resources for the Care of Victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking

SourceSponsorsWebsite

Caring for Trafficked Persons: Guidance for Health Providers

International Organization for Migration, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking

http://publications.iom.int/bookstore/free/CT_Handbook.pdf

Child Sex Trafficking Webinar Series

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

http://www.choa.org/csecwebinars

Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector

Institute of Medicine, National Research Council

http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Resources/SexTrafficking/guideforhealthcaresector.pdf

Human Trafficking Continuing Education

Christian Medical and Dental Associations

http://cmda.org/resources/publication/human-trafficking-continuing-education

National Human Trafficking Resource Center

Polaris Project

http://traffickingresourcecenter.org/

Rescue and Restore Campaign

Office of Refugee Resettlement

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/resource/about-rescue-restore

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, nor the U.S. government.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

REFERENCES

show all references

1. Office of Refugee Resettlement. About unaccompanied children's services. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/programs/ucs/about. Accessed December 29, 2014....

2. U.S. State Department. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. http://www.state.gov/j/tip/laws/61124.htm. Accessed December 29, 2014.

3. National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Hotline statistics. Updated September 20, 2014.http://www.traffickingresourcecenter.org/states. Accessed January 26, 2015.

4. Ahn R, Alpert EJ, Purcell G, et al. Human trafficking: review of educational resources for health professionals. Am J Prev Med. 2013;44(3):283–289.

5. Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and HomelandSecurity, 111th Cong, 2nd Sess (2010) (testimony of Ernie Allen, President & CEO, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children).

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