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

Health Problems Associated with Trafficking

The health problems seen in victims of trafficking are largely a result of several factors: deprivation of food and sleep, extreme stress, hazards of travel, violence (physical and sexual), and hazardous work. Because most victims do not have timely access to health care, by the time they reach a clinician it is likely that health problems are well advanced.[5] These women are at high risk for acquiring multiple sexually transmitted infections and the sequelae of multiple forced and unsafe abortions.[19,20] Physical abuse and torture often occur, which can result in broken bones, contusions, dental problems (e.g., loss of teeth), and/or cigarette burns.

Psychological violence results in high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, drug addiction, and a multitude of somatic symptoms.[17,19,21] When providers were asked in one study about their experiences working with victims of trafficking, they reported that these victims are less stable, more isolated, have higher levels of fear, more severe trauma, and greater mental health needs than other victims of crime. One trafficking victim can take the same amount of the provider's time as 20 domestic violence victims.[22] Box 2 provides a list of common problems seen in victims of trafficking.[2,5]


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