Vol 23, 2014 Annals of Health Law 87
HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF SEX TRAFFICKING
Victims of sex trafficking suffer severe physical and psychological
health consequences as a result of their trafficking. Victims frequently have
contact with medical professionals in a variety of health care settings,
including hospital emergency wards, neighborhood clinics, women’s health
clinics, and Planned Parenthood clinics, as well as private practices.
Violence-related injuries, serious illness or disease, pregnancy, birth
control, and abortion, substance abuse, addiction and overdose, as well as
serious psychological problems, are all reasons why substantial numbers of
victims seek treatment.
Because they are “first responders” health care providers have unique
opportunities to intervene on behalf of trafficking victims. Health care
institutions must develop protocols for training, identifying, and treating sex
trafficking victims. Medical personnel must increase efforts to understand
the nature and scope of the problem of sex trafficking in the United States
in order to improve their capacity to identify victims. This is especially true
when they have the ability to speak privately with victims in a context
where their statements may be admissible in a later prosecution of their
traffickers. To this end, medical staff, particularly in hospital emergency
rooms and local clinics should be alert for the most common physical and
psychological conditions and symptoms these victims experience,
especially in the context of reproductive health. By doing so, the medical
community can play a vital role in the ongoing fight to eliminate modern-day slavery.