How to Recognize Child Trafficking
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery.Attorney General of Texas (2020)
Health-care providers have a unique opportunity to be the first point of contact in identifying male or female youth who have been trafficked.
“The people who most commonly interact with victims of trafficking, apart from traffickers and sex buyers, are health care providers” (Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health, 2020). “A 2014 study published in the Annals of Health Law found that 88% of nearly a hundred trafficking victims had contact with a health care provider at some point while being trafficked.” (Ibid.)
In order to help victims of human trafficking, primary care providers must be aware of the wide variety of situations or jobs that may involve trafficking.
“There are many forms of exploitation into which people can be trafficked and held in slavery. These crimes are happening in every corner of the world and can include any person, regardless of age, socio-economic background or location” (Stop the Traffik, 2020).
Victims are male and female. They live in cities and unincorporated communities. Their families come from all walks of life.
“Victims can be any age and are trafficked by anyone, including family members, extended relatives, friends, spouses and partners, as well as acquaintances and strangers” (Texas Health and Human Services Commission, 2020).
Youth are particularly vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation (AAP, 2015) because they have:
- Limited life experiences.
- An immature prefrontal cortex that limits their ability to control impulses, think critically and analyze risks and benefits of situations.
- Limited options for action.
“In the United States, traffickers prey upon children in the foster care system. Recent reports have consistently indicated that a large number of victims of child sex trafficking were at one time in the foster care system” (U.S. State Department, 2019).
The Office of the Texas Governor Child Sex Trafficking Team provides links to resources for health-care providers, including the Child Sexual Exploitation-Identification Tool (CSE-IT) to identify trafficking victims.
To get help or report trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888 or chat online at www.humantraffickinghotline.org/chat.
Why It Matters
Pediatricians and other primary care providers should be on the lookout for signs that children and adolescents are being exploited or trafficked for sex or labor. Your position means you may be the first professional to identify human trafficking victims. You serve an essential role by recognizing trafficking of children and adolescents and responding appropriately to help victims and to stop perpetrators.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2017). Policy Statement: Global Human Trafficking and Child Victimization. Pediatrics, 140(6):e20173138.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015). Clinical Report: Child Sex Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation: Health Care Needs of Victims.
Attorney General of Texas. (2020). Human Trafficking.
Busch-Armendariz, N., Nale, N .L., Kammer-Kerwick, M., Kellison, B., Maldonado Torres, M. I., Cook Heffron, L., & Nehme, J. (2016). Human Trafficking by the Numbers: The Initial Benchmark of Prevalence and Economic Impact for Texas. The University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work, Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
Gomes, I. (2020). Health Care Providers Are Missing Chances to Help Victims of Sex Trafficking. Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health, Spring 2020.
Office of the Texas Governor (2020). Child Sex Trafficking – Recognize.
Stop the Traffik. (2020). Types of Exploitation.
Texas Health and Human Services Commission. (2020). Texas Human Trafficking Resource Center.
The Human Trafficking Institute. (2018). Federal Human Trafficking Report 2018: State Summary, Texas.
U.S. State Department. (2019). Trafficking in Persons Report.
UN Women. (2019). Facts and figures: Ending violence against women.