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Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
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5

Recommended Strategies

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“The human cost of the status quo is simply unacceptable.”

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The IOM/NRC report concludes with a series of recommendations for making progress toward preventing and responding to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. The priorities for progress articulated in the report’s recommendations are summarized in this section.

INCREASE AWARENESS AND UNDERSTANDING

As discussed in prior sections, a lack of training among professionals who interact with children and adolescents—especially those who are vulnerable—is a barrier to timely and appropriate action to assist victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking and prevent these crimes among youth at risk. These professionals are often dismayed to learn that they have missed opportunities to help these youth, and want to know more about how to identify and assist them.

Training

Training for professionals and others who interact with young people needs to target and reach a range of audiences in a variety of settings (e.g., urban

Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
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RECOMMENDATION TO INCREASE AWARENESS AND UNDERSTANDING

Develop, implement, and evaluate:

  • training for professionals and others who routinely interact with children and adolescents,
  • public awareness campaigns, and
  • specific strategies for children and adolescents.

and rural; tribal lands, territories, and states). Relevant sectors (e.g., health care, law enforcement, victim and support services) should participate in the development, implementation, and evaluation of training activities that use evidence-based methods. Further, each sector should be consulted to determine the best methods for that sector, given that needs may vary, for example, between law enforcement personnel and health care professionals.

Public Awareness Campaigns

A lack of public awareness is a significant barrier to preventing, identifying, and responding to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. To address this gap, existing public awareness initiatives could be expanded to encompass these crimes.

Strategies for Awareness Among Children and Adolescents

Child and adolescent victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking may not view themselves as victims, and youth who are at risk for this kind of exploitation may not recognize their individual risk. Therefore, special efforts are needed to increase the awareness of children and adolescents to help them avoid becoming victims and to help victims and survivors obtain the assistance they need.

STRENGTHEN THE LAW’S RESPONSE

“Individuals who sexually exploit children and adolescents have largely escaped accountability.”

A small but growing number of states have enacted laws—sometimes referred to as “safe harbor” laws—designed to redirect young victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking from the criminal or juvenile justice system to child welfare or other agencies to receive supportive services. While

Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
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recognizing that additional time and research are needed to assess the effectiveness of specific state laws, the IOM/NRC report recommends that the core principle underlying these safe harbor laws—that children and adolescents who are survivors of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking must be treated as victims, not criminals—should be advanced without delay.

In addition, despite laws in every state that enable the prosecution of individuals who purchase sex with a minor, function as exploiters and traffickers, or otherwise sexually exploit children and adolescents, and despite the hard work of prosecutors and law enforcement in many jurisdictions, individuals who sexually exploit children and adolescents have largely escaped accountability.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO STRENGTHEN THE LAW’S RESPONSE

Develop laws and policies that redirect young victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking from arrest and prosecution to systems, agencies, and services that are equipped to meet their needs. Such laws should apply to all children and adolescents under age 18.

Review, strengthen, and implement laws that hold exploiters, traffickers, and solicitors accountable for their role in commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors. These laws should include a particular emphasis on deterring demand.

STRENGTHEN RESEARCH ON PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION

As noted previously, the evidence base on strategies and approaches for preventing and responding to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States is extremely limited.

RECOMMENDATION TO STRENGTHEN RESEARCH ON PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION

Implement a national research agenda focused on:

  • advancing knowledge and understanding;
  • developing effective interventions; and
  • evaluating the effectiveness of prevention and intervention laws, policies, and programs.
Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
×

SUPPORT COLLABORATION

As discussed in Section 3, collaborative, coordinated approaches that bring together resources from multiple sectors will be most effective in identifying victims and survivors and in meeting their challenging needs.

RECOMMENDATION TO SUPPORT COLLABORATION AND COORDINATION

Develop guidelines on and provide technical assistance to support multisector collaboration and coordination.

SUPPORT INFORMATION SHARING

“The difficulty of locating services and programs available to victims is a very real obstacle for children and adolescents seeking to access services and for professionals and caregivers trying to help them.”

One of the most significant barriers to preventing, identifying, and responding to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors is a lack of reliable, timely information. A number of organizations maintain lists of services available to child and adolescent victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. However, there is no exhaustive list of national-, state-, local-, and tribal-level resources for victim and support services. The difficulty of locating services and programs available to victims is a very real obstacle for children and adolescents seeking to access services and for professionals and caregivers trying to help them.

RECOMMENDATION TO SUPPORT INFORMATION SHARING

Create and maintain a digital information-sharing platform to deliver reliable, real-time information on how to prevent, identify, and respond to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States.

Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
×

FINAL THOUGHTS

Efforts to prevent, identify, and respond to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States are in the same developmental stage that efforts to deal with physical and sexual abuse of children were in during the 1970s, when a handful of multidisciplinary approaches for addressing those problems were emerging around the country. Approaches to domestic and interpersonal violence were at a similar stage in the early 1980s. The nation today has a real opportunity to build on lessons from those earlier efforts, as well as current noteworthy practices, to address the problem of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors, and the health care sector has a crucial role to play in achieving this goal. The children and adolescents who are at risk and are victims and survivors of these crimes cannot wait. The human cost of the status quo is simply unacceptable.

Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
×

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Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
×
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Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
×
Page 28
Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
×
Page 29
Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
×
Page 30
Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
×
Page 31
Suggested Citation:"5 Recommended Strategies." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2014. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18886.
×
Page 32
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Every day in the United States, children and adolescents are victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. These are not only illegal activities, but also forms of violence and abuse that result in immediate and long-term physical, mental, and emotional harm to victims and survivors. In 2013, the Institute of Medicine/National Research Council released the report Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States. The report found that the United States is in the very early stages of recognizing, understanding, and developing solutions for these crimes.

Health care professionals need to be able to recognize past, ongoing, or potential victimization by commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking among the youth in their care. Failure to do so increases the possibility that those at risk may become victims, and victims may miss opportunities for assistance and remain vulnerable to further exploitation and abuse.

This Guide for the Health Care Sector provides a summary of information from the original report that is most relevant to individuals who and settings that see children and adolescents for prevention and treatment of injury, illness, and disease. This includes physicians, nurses, advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, mental health professionals, and dentists who practice in settings such as emergency departments, urgent care, primary care clinics, adolescent medicine clinics, school clinics, shelters, community health centers, and dental clinics among others.

This guide includes definitions of key terms and an overview of risk factors and consequences; barriers to identifying victims and survivors as well as opportunities for overcoming these barriers; examples of current practices in the health care sector; and recommendations aimed at identifying, preventing, and responding to these crimes.

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