Domestic Sex Trafficking of Minors: Medical Student and Physician Awareness

J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2017 Feb;30(1):102-108. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2015.05.006. Epub 2015 May 20.


Study objective: Our aim was to assess: (1) medical trainee and practicing physician awareness about domestic sex trafficking of minors; and (2) whether respondents believe that awareness of trafficking is important to their practice.

Design and setting: We designed an anonymous electronic survey, and a convenience sample was collected from June through October 2013.

Participants: Voluntary participants were 1648 medical students, residents, and practicing physicians throughout the United States.

Interventions and main outcome measures: Data were analyzed for correlations between study cohort characteristics and: (1) agreement with the statement: "knowing about sex trafficking in my state is important to my profession"; (2) knowledge of national statistics regarding the sex trafficking of minors; and (3) knowledge of appropriate responses to encountering a trafficked victim.

Results: More practicing physicians than residents or medical students: (1) agreed or strongly agreed that knowledge about human trafficking was important to their practice (80.6%, 71.1%, and 69.2%, respectively; P = .0008); (2) correctly estimated the number of US trafficked youth according to the US Department of State data (16.1%, 11.7%, and 7.9%, respectively; P = .0011); and (3) were more likely to report an appropriate response to a trafficked victim (40.4%, 20.4%, and 8.9%, respectively; P = .0001).

Conclusion: Although most medical trainees and physicians place importance on knowing about human trafficking, they lack knowledge about the scope of the problem, and most would not know where to turn if they encountered a trafficking victim. There exists a need for standardized trafficking education for physicians, residents, and medical students.

Keywords: Child prostitution; Commercial sexual exploitation of children; Human trafficking; Medical education; Sex trafficking; Sexual abuse.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Awareness
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Human Trafficking / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minors / psychology*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States