By: Kanani Titchen
It is estimated that 100,000 U.S. children are traded for sex each year.1 Children as young as seven years old are being trafficked. Ten percent of U.S. children living in shelters and 28% of U.S.children living on the streets report exchanging sex for drugs or money.2Technology increasingly is being used to propagate trafficking, as evidenced by the thousands of Backpage ads of girls for sale.3
A multitude of medical problems accompany the abused and domestically trafficked child, and trafficked children often suffer from both physical as well as psychological trauma. Frequently, time to access healthcare is delayed, so diseases and conditions present in advanced and critical stages.4-8
Many physicians believe that they have never seen these child victims. A recent study, however, found that 28% of European trafficking victims had seen a healthcare professional while still in captivity.9 Even when health professionals acknowledged that trafficked victims appeared in their emergency departments, most health care providers (87%) lacked confidence that they would be able to identify these victims, and almost all (97%) had received no training in recognizing these victims.10 No data exist regarding the beliefs, knowledge, or training of primary care doctors such as pediatricians regarding trafficked children. There also are no data about training programs for medical students and physicians regarding caring for these patients.
Our survey data (Titchen, Chin, Sharif unpublished data, 2013) show that among medical students, residents, and physicians:
−approximately 80% agree that it is important to know about human trafficking.
−fewer than 16% correctly estimate the number of trafficked youth in the U.S. and understand the scope of the problem
−only 40% of practicing physicians, 20% of residents, and 10% of medical students know who to call if they encounter a trafficked child.
Existing training programs through organizations such as GEMS (Girls Education and Mentoring Services) and the MGH HTI(Massachusetts General Hospital Human Trafficking Initiative) are three- to four-hour investments. These programs currently are underutilized.
The American Medical Women’s Association is developing a succinct online healthcare-focused trafficking education video to (1) introduce information about the problem of child trafficking, (2) highlight red flags that help to identify children at risk, and (3) make known available training and social service resources, including existing in-person training programs. The goal is to increase physician awareness and training to aid in preventing human trafficking through the physician-patient relationship, through patient education, and through political and community advocacy.
Physicians properly trained will be frontline responders for child sex trafficking victims and are in a unique position to provide needed care and resources.
What you can do:
Please go to http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/stop-child-sex-trafficking–2 to support this campaign! The campaign runs 12/2 – 12/31 in the hopes that people can extend the spirit of holiday giving to include this cause. Please spread the word to anyone who might be interested. Even the smallest donation will make a difference.
1.The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: The National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction: A Report to Congress, U.S. Department of Justice, 2010.
2.Edwards JM, Iritani BJ, Hallfors DD. Prevalence and correlates of exchanging sex for drugs or money among adolescents in the United States. STIJournal 2006;82:354-358.
3.Mark Latonero, PhD, Research Director at USCAnnenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, at the “Symposium on Meeting the Needs of Child Trafficking Survivors,” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. May 1, 2013.
4.Barrows J, Finger R. Human Trafficking and the Healthcare Professional. South Med J.2008 May;101(5):521-4.
5.Dovydaitis T. Human trafficking: the role of the health care provider. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2010 Sep-Oct;55(5):462-7.
6.O’Callaghan MG. The health care professional as a modern abolitionist. Perm J.2012 Spring;16(2):67-9.
7.Newby A, McGuinness TM. Human trafficking: what psychiatric nurses should know to help children and adolescents. J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv.2012 Apr;50(4):21-4. Epub 2012 Mar 14.
8.Sabella D. The role of the nurse in combating humantrafficking. Am J Nurs.2011 Feb; 111(2):28-37.
10.Chisolm-Strike M, Richardson L. Assessment of emergency department provider knowledge about human trafficking victims in the ED. Acad Emerg Med 2007;14(suppl1):134
The American Medical Women’s Association is launching a nationwide campaign against domestic child sex trafficking. was originally published @ Cancer inCYTES Blog and has been syndicated with permission.
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