2014 | Laura J. Lederer and Christopher A. Wetzel

This paper explores the health consequences and healthcare experiences of women and girls trafficked in the United States for commercial sex. The paper is based on an original study of over one hundred domestic sex trafficking victims and survivors. It provides evidence that women and children who are trafficked into prostitution are physically, mentally, and emotionally devastated by the crime, and this devastation is lasting with injuries, illnesses, and impairments continuing for decades. It illustrates how our healthcare system is failing trafficked women and children. It makes the case that health care providers of all kinds in emergency wards, healthcare clinics, and private practices are seeing trafficking victims but failing to identify them, thereby unwittingly contributing to continuing criminal activity and exacerbating both public and private physical and mental health problems for this segment of the population. It offers recommendations on ways that public policy and healthcare practice can combat sex trafficking by more readily identifying victims and catalyzing rescues. Finally, it argues that law, policy, and protocols must change in order to adequately address the health consequences of sex trafficking.