Human Trafficking: The Role of the Health Care Provider

Tiffany Dovydaitis, RN, WHCNP


J Midwifery Womens Health. 2010;55(5):462-467. 

In This Article

Definitions and Distinctions

According to the US Department of State, human trafficking is "The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery."[4] Sex trafficking is "When a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or when the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age."[4] A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.[4]

Sex trafficking and prostitution are not the same, but the distinction between the two is subtle and difficult to define.[7] The literature on the conceptual differences is conflicting and largely dependent on the author's beliefs about legalized prostitution. The main distinctions made in the literature between trafficking and prostitution are consent and coercion.[8] Sex trafficking and prostitution are similar in that both are exploitive; women may suffer sexual assault by clients and/or pimps; and women may suffer extreme stress reactions, trauma, depression, and multiple medical problems. Table 1 presents a summary of possible differences.[7–9]


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