Labor and sex trafficking impact children of all ages, genders, and nationalities. Trafficked patients present to the emergency department for illnesses and injuries both related and unrelated to their trafficking experiences. Emergency clinicians are not meant to be experts in labor and sex trafficking, but they must know enough to be able to identify patients at risk for trafficking and ensure that these patients have the opportunity to be connected to relevant services and support.
Our recent issue Human Trafficking of Children and Adolescents: Recognition and Response in the Emergency Department reviews the ways in which youth are trafficked, the indicators of trafficking, and the evidence-based and best-practice recommendations for addressing suspected or confirmed trafficking in the pediatric and adolescent patient populations.
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Here are a few key points:
- Trafficking does not require transportation away from home or across borders.
- Children and adolescents may be trafficked in legal industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, restaurant, and domestic work, as well as in illegal industries.
- Although sex trafficking receives much of the focus in the United States, research indicates that 20% to 50% of youth who experience trafficking specifically experience labor trafficking.
- The risk factors for labor and sex trafficking are multifactorial, and current studies have not established association versus causality for risk factors.
- Risk factor conditions may be compounded by larger structural factors such as poverty, racism, transphobia, homophobia, and sexism.