Release of "Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation…: A Guide forthe Health Sector" Part 2

cancerSince victims and survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking are exposed to such extreme situations, they have higher risk of experiencing physical and/or mental illness that may require treatment. The possibility of interaction between health provider and victim places health providers in unique positions where they can provide care and assistance while victims are being exploited. The greatest barrier, however, to providing appropriate care to victims, is the health care professional’s inability to recognize their patient’s exploited state.

Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking ofMinors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector describes reasons why barriers to identification are so intricate in its third chapter. Continuing with the socio-ecological model from Part 1 of this article, there are barriers to identification from the personal, interpersonal and organizational/community levels. From the victim’s personal level, they are typically unwilling to disclose their status as a victim, or are unaware that they are victims at their point of service. Interpersonally, most providers lack an understanding of what commercial sexual exploitation is or have preconceived notions that victims are only foreign women. On the organizational and community levels, there is a deficiency of policies, protocols and standards for health care professionals that define how victims should be treated or reported. Finally, with the many recent changes occurring in the health care field along with many pre-existing mandatory trainings, there are competing priorities for health care professionals to address, which keep health care professionals from training in sexual exploitation identification.
“In contrast with intimate partner violence and child abuse, few health care settings have established screening practices, policies, and protocols related to commercial – IOM/NRC
With so many barriers to identification, what, then, is the health care professionals’ role? The IOM/NRC were able to point out several opportunities (aside from the need for additional research and efficacy evaluation of current approaches). While there are models of care for issues like intimate partner violence, sexual assault and domestic violence, there are no models for the identification and care for victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors. Many of the skills that already exist can be transferred and adapted for identifying victims of sexual exploitation. On an organizational level, multi-level service response teams need to be constructed to meet the diverse needs of victims. Commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors is as much a community issue as it is an individual concern; public health programs are needed to prevent exploitation and address matters that are closely linked to it. Technology is also a useful tool that needs development to provide education, training and protocol to health professionals.
Ultimately, there is still a lot to be learned about commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States, as well as pinpointing best practices needed to meet the needs of victims within the health care sector. In the end, however, the success of victims and survivors still lies in interagency efforts and should be kept in mind as programs are developed.
Cancer InCytesmagazine has published articles about the link between childhood physical and mental trauma and disease.
Trauma & Chronic Disease:
Trafficking as a Public Health Problem
IOM (Institute of Medicine) and NRC (National Research Council). 2014. Confronting commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington,DC: The National Academies Press.
By Sharon Chin
Sharon E. Chin is an MPH candidate at Rutgers University and is Social Media Editor for Cancer InCytes magazine. Her interests are exploring social justice issues through public health lenses.


Release of “Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation…: A Guide forthe Health Sector” Part 2 was originally published @ Cancer inCYTES Blog and has been syndicated with permission.


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