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Commercially Sexually Exploited and Trafficked Minors: Our Hidden and Forgotten Children

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Stigma and Prejudice

Abstract

Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. Globally, an estimated 20.9 million persons are exploited for their labor in a multitude of industries, including the commercial sex industry. In the United States, the prevalence of human trafficking is unknown and published figures vary widely based on definitional criteria and data sources used. This chapter focuses specifically on the commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. Minors under the age of 18 years account for one of the groups most vulnerable to exploitation in the commercial sex industry. In the United States, 100,000–300,000 minors are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation each year. Minors who have experienced complex trauma in their childhood are particularly vulnerable to these forms of polyvictimization. Their complex traumatic experiences as young children not only elevate their risk for re-victimization through commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking but also give rise to a destructive cycle of stigmatization that permeates their lives before, during, and well beyond their exploitation. The short- and long-term physical and mental health effects of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking are profound, and the cumulative effects of complex trauma and stigma place victims and survivors at a disadvantage in a number of health metrics. Trafficked minors are challenged by unfavorable social determinants of health, high-risk health behaviors, poor health outcomes, numerous barriers to health care, and retraumatization in the health care setting. Indeed, sex trafficking of minors is thought to be the most underreported form of child abuse. Through education and training, health care providers who are knowledgeable about the experiences of trafficked minors and trained to provide trauma-informed care can help break the cycle of trauma and stigmatization, lessen health care disparities, and contribute to their healing and recovery.

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Correspondence to Wendy Macias-Konstantopoulos MD, MPH .

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Macias-Konstantopoulos, W., Bar-Halpern, M. (2016). Commercially Sexually Exploited and Trafficked Minors: Our Hidden and Forgotten Children. In: Parekh, R., Childs, E. (eds) Stigma and Prejudice. Current Clinical Psychiatry. Humana Press, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-27580-2_11

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-27580-2_11

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