The Medical Response to Sex Trafficking of Minors in Wisconsin
Although comprehensive research to document the number of children engaged in prostitution in the United States is lacking, an estimated 293,000 American youths currently are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. In a nationally representative sample of U.S. adolescents, 3.5% disclosed that they had exchanged sex for drugs or money in their lifetime. In three clinics at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, 135 child victims were identified in 2014. When high-risk adolescents were screened by Child Advocacy and Protection Services (CAPS) for victimization, 6% stated they have been involved in the sex trade. Therefore, the incidence of sex trafficking likely approaches the incidence of many medical conditions and social risk factors providers commonly screen for in routine patient care.
Victims of sex trafficking experience a high prevalence of physical, mental, and sexual health problems. Individuals in the sex trade frequently report severe physical and sexual violence. They often experience an inadequate diet and hygiene, substance abuse, neglect, and poor access to healthcare. Psychological abuse associated with isolation from their families, ongoing threats, and witnessing the abuse of others can cause profound and lasting effects on their health and well-being. Considering the associated health risks, it is imperative that the medical community is aware of the risk factors for sex trafficking and the appropriate medical response to potential victims.
Describe the definition, scope, and nature of sex trafficking.
Improve learners ability to identify youth at risk for sex trafficking.
Identify actions providers can take when evaluating youth at risk for sex trafficking.
Angela Rabbitt, DO
Marlene Melzer-Lange, MD
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