Evaluation of a Tool to Identify Child Sex Trafficking Victims in Multiple Healthcare Settings

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Journal of Adolescent Health





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Purpose Estimate the prevalence of child sex trafficking (CST) among patients seeking care in multiple healthcare settings; evaluate a short screening tool to identify victims in a healthcare setting. Methods This cross-sectional observational study involved patients from 16 sites throughout the U.S.: five pediatric emergency departments, six child advocacy centers, and five teen clinics. Participants included English-speaking youth ages 11–17 years. For emergency department sites, inclusion criteria included a chief complaint of sexual violence. Data on several domains were gathered through self-report questionnaires and examiner interview. Main outcomes included prevalence of CST among eligible youth; sensitivity, specificity, positive/negative predictive values, and positive/negative likelihood ratios for a CST screening tool. Results Eight hundred and ten participants included 91 (11.52%) youth from emergency departments, 395 (48.8%) from child advocacy centers, and 324 (40.0%) from teen clinics. Overall prevalence of CST was 11.1%: 13.2% among emergency department patients, 6.3% among child advocacy center patients, and 16.4% among teen clinic patients, respectively. The screen had a sensitivity, specificity, and positive likelihood ratio of 84.44% (75.28, 91.23), 57.50% (53.80, 61.11), and 1.99% (1.76, 2.25), respectively. Conclusions This study demonstrates a significant rate of CST among patients presenting to emergency departments (for sexual violence complaints), child advocacy centers, and teen clinics. A six-item screen showed relatively good sensitivity and moderate specificity. Negative predictive value was high. Intervention for a “positive” screen may identify victims and help prevent high-risk youth from becoming victimized. This is one of the first CST screening tools specifically developed and evaluated in the healthcare setting.


Adolescent; Child sex trafficking; Commercial sexual exploitation; Healthcare; Human trafficking; Identification


Medicine and Health Sciences | Public Health and Community Nursing



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