Commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of adolescents.
Purpose of review
This review describes the current state of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of adolescents in the United States and globally, the legal and health implications of this severe form of abuse, and the roles that pediatric and adolescent healthcare providers can play in addressing this issue. Although this form of exploitation and abuse is shrouded in secrecy, pediatric and adolescent healthcare providers are well positioned to respond when it arises. However, awareness and understanding of the issue are generally lacking among healthcare professionals, currently limiting their effectiveness in combating this problem.
Although the empirical evidence base available to guide clinical care of victims of trafficking remains limited given the secretive nature of the abuse, important contributions to the multidisciplinary literature on this issue have been made in recent years, including the Institute of Medicine's landmark report in the United States.
Commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of adolescents represent a human rights tragedy that remains inadequately addressed. As preeminent advocates for the health and well-being of adolescents, pediatric and adolescent healthcare providers can play a crucial role in advancing efforts not only to intervene but also to prevent further victimization of vulnerable youth.
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