When many people hear about human trafficking and health care, they usually think about sexual health: sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and so forth. However, the health problems of trafficking survivors are much more vast and complex. It is also important to note that not all trafficking survivors are trafficked for sex.
In the five years that have passed since I met the 14-year-old girl who opened my eyes to the terrible crime of sex trafficking in the United States, much has changed. We have made strides in state and federal legislation to protect survivors, national human trafficking prevention months have been declared, and victims are no longer treated as criminals.
A few years ago when I was working at a charter school in upstate New York, one of my students was caught “prostituting herself” to men she was messaging online. When asked, she said she was doing so for a 30-year-old man she claimed was her boyfriend. Word about this traveled quickly at school. Students talked about her behind her back and called her a “hoe.”