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Information for Health Care Providers
Health care providers can assist victims of domestic minor sex trafficking by becoming aware of the signs of trafficking and being prepared to respond in the appropriate manner. Like any other survivor of sexual violence, victims of domestic minor sex trafficking respond to their experiences in their own unique way. Factors that impact survivors’ decision to come forward for medical treatment include:
- How they define sexual violence
- Whether they know the perpetrator
- Their past history of victimization
- How their family and friends respond
- Their views on the criminal justice system and their personal style of dealing with crisis
For victims of domestic minor sex trafficking these issues are compounded by many challenges that may not be obvious on the surface. A victim of domestic minor sex trafficking may present not as a victim of a sex crime. Rather, they might be seeking medical treatment for injuries/illnesses that are secondary to trafficking. As such, it is important that medical professionals be aware of some trafficking indicators. Minors who are being trafficked may:
- Need treatment for STIs, and/or request emergency contraception, pregnancy testing, or pregnancy termination
- Believe they must work against their will
- Show fear and anxiety
- Be subject to threats of violence or have experienced violence
- Allow others to speak for them when addressed directly
- Be distrustful of authorities
- Not know their home or work address
- Live in poor or substandard accommodations
- Act as if they were instructed by someone else
- Have limited or no social interaction
- Be in a situation of dependence
- Have acted on the basis of false promises
- Be disciplined through punishment
- Have no access to parents or guardian
- Look intimidated and behave in a way that does not correspond to their age
- Have no access to education, playing, or other children
- Be engaged in work that is not suitable for children
- Be in the presence of an adult to claims to have “found” them
- Travel unaccompanied by adults or with telephone numbers for calling taxis
The presence of one or more of these indicators may be a sign that a minor is a victim of trafficking. Health care professionals who suspect that a patient is being trafficked, it is important to engage the help of others to investigate further and determine the best plan of action.
In general, some tips for medical professionals who suspect that one of their patients is a victim of sex trafficking include the following:
- Work to establish trust with the patient. Tell them who you are, why you are there and how you can help them.
- If they are accompanied by a suspicious person, try to examine the patient in private so that you can speak with them alone.
- If indicators of trafficking are present, enlist the help of someone else. Options include contacting local law enforcement, Florida Department of Children and Families (850-921-2168), the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-3737-888) and/or the Florida Abuse Hotline (1-800-962-2873).
- Follow mandatory reporting laws regarding the suspected abuse of minors.