1. In a survey of medical providers, social workers, and patient and family advocates, less than half were able to correctly identify a victim of pediatric sex trafficking when provided a clinical scenario. Slightly more than half were able to correctly distinguish a victim of sex trafficking from a prostitute or victim of child abuse.
2. Respondents with formal sex trafficking training were more likely to correctly distinguish a victim of sex trafficking and view sex trafficking as a major local problem; however, only slightly over a third of those surveyed reported having had formal training.
Study Rundown: In the United States, an estimated 100 000 to 300 000 children are at risk for sex trafficking each year. Medical professionals can aid in the identification of these victims; however, surveys report that up to half of sex trafficking victims are not recognized as such when seen by a health provider. This survey study sought to identify knowledge gaps and training needs of medical providers in order to better assist pediatric sex trafficking victims. When provided a clinical vignette, less than half of respondents were able to correctly identify a sex trafficking victim and slightly over half were able to distinguish a sex trafficking victim from a child abuse victim or prostitute. A little over a third of the respondents reported having had formal training on how to identify sex trafficking victims. Respondents identified a lack of training and awareness of sex trafficking as the largest barriers to identifying victims of sex trafficking. This study was limited by non-random sampling given that surveys were sent to providers who would encounter sex trafficking victims, as well as a survey response bias with providers who have an interest in this topic choosing to respond. However, this study highlights gaps in medical providers’ ability to identify pediatric sex trafficking victims which are essential in helping the uniquely positioned professionals with the potential to intervene.
In-Depth [survey]: A total of 168 respondents participated in the survey (34% response rate), the majority of whom were female (91%). Social workers (42%), physicians (24%), and patient and family support services (14%) constituted a majority of respondents. More than half (55%) of respondents worked in an urban setting, and 55% worked in an exclusively pediatric practice. Of the total respondents, 63% reported that they had had no formal training on sex trafficking. When given a clinical vignette, only 48% of respondents were able to correctly identify a pediatric sex trafficking victim. Medical providers (physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants) were more likely to correctly identify a pediatric sex trafficking victim compared to social workers and patient and family support staff (p = 0.002). Of the total respondents, only 58% were able to distinguish a pediatric sex trafficking victim from a prostitute or victim of child abuse. Respondents with previous sex trafficking training were more likely to correctly classify a victim of sex trafficking (p = 0.009). Compared to those without formal training, respondents with formal training were more likely to think sex trafficking was a major local problem (p ≤ 0.001), were more likely to have encountered a sex trafficking victim in their practice (p ≤ 0.001), and were more confident in their ability to identify sex trafficking victims (p ≤ 0.001).
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