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J Interpers Violence. 2017 Apr 1:886260517703373. doi: 10.1177/0886260517703373. [Epub ahead of print]

Trafficking Experiences and Psychosocial Features of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims.

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1 Hasbro Children's Hospital, Providence, RI, USA.
2 Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, RI, USA.
3 The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.


Domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) is an increasingly recognized traumatic crime premised upon the control, abuse, and exploitation of youth. By definition, DMST is the "recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act" within domestic borders, in which the person is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident under the age of 18 years. The present study described the demographics, psychosocial features, and trafficking experiences (e.g., environments of recruitment, relationship to trafficker, solicitation) of DMST victims. A total of 25 medical records of patients under the age of 18 who disclosed their involvement in DMST to medical providers between August 1, 2013, and November 30, 2015, were retrospectively reviewed. The majority of patients were female, and the mean age was 15.4 years old. Most patients lived at home and/or were accompanied at the evaluation by a parent/guardian. High rates of alcohol or substance use/abuse (92%), being placed in a group home or child protective services (CPS) custody (28%), a history of runaway behavior (60%), and/or exposure to other child maltreatment (88%) were identified. Our data indicated variation in reported trafficking experiences; however, patients commonly reported an established relationship with their trafficker (60%) and recruitment occurred primarily as a result of financial motivation (52%). Patients were prevalently recruited in settings where there were face-to-face interactions (56%), whereas the solicitation of sex-buyers occurred primarily online (92%). Victims who disclosed involvement in DMST had complicated psychosocial histories that may have rendered them susceptible to their exploitation, and reported a variety of DMST experiences perpetuated by traffickers. Although preliminary in nature, this study provided empirical evidence of the predisposing factors, motivations, and experiences of victimized youth uniquely from the perspective of patients who sought medical care.


domestic minor sex trafficking; sexual exploitation; traffickers; victims


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