Laura J. Lederer, a leader in the fight against human trafficking, looked into that question, and other related questions regarding how sex-trafficking victims come into contact with health care providers. What she and co-author Christopher A. Wetzel found was published as "The Health Consequences of Sex Trafficking and Their Implications for Identifying Victims in Healthcare Facilities" in the Winter, 2014 Annals of Health Law.
Lederer and Wetzel found, not surprisingly, that when sex-trafficking victims get sick or injured, or are put on birth control, or get pregnant, their pimps take them to health care facilities. During their time of sexual slavery, nearly 88% of trafficking victims are taken to a medical facility of some sort.
One medical care provider stood out above all others:
Survivors also had significant contact with clinical treatment facilities, most commonly Planned Parenthood clinics, which more than a quarter of survivors (29.6%) visited.Actually, 29.6 -- let's round it up to 30 -- is closer to 1/3 (33.3%) than it is to 1/4 (25%). That's an astonishing number. Nearly one-third of sex trafficking victims pass through the doors of Planned Parenthood..
At first glance, this would seem like very good news, right? If Planned Parenthood workers were properly trained, nearly a third of sex trafficking victims would come into contact with dedicated people who are trained and ready to identify them and offer them help in escaping from sexual slavery. This would be amazing!
What will Planned Parenthood actually do? Let's look at the experiences of one Planned Parenthood employee who saw for herself how the organization tackled the issue of staff spotting possible sex trafficking.
Ramona Trevino was working as a manager at a Planned Parenthood in Texas when the group LiveAction was releasing various undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood workers engaging in questionable or even illegal practises.
"I just blew it off," Ramona said of the videos. "I thought, 'This is ridiculous. We don't have anything to hide, so why are we so concerned about these undercover investigations? If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear, right?"
"In the beginning of 2011," Ramona continued, "another undercover investigation came out exposing Planned Parenthood workers aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking."
Planned Parenthood Federation of America went out publicly saying that they would retrain all of their staff on how they reported abuse.
When we were called into this meeting, I went in really believing that Planned Parenthood could redeem themselves. They're going to prove that they really do care about women and this is something that really concerns them. I walk into the room -- it's dark, we sign in, and there's a projector screen pulled down, and they begin to play all of the previous undercover investigations that had been put out about Planned Parenthood. And I became very perplexed. I thought, you know, "What's going on here? Are we showing these things because they're trying to show us what not to do? You know -- the things that are wrong, that we don't do these things?"
And so I raised my hand and I said, "I'm confused. When are we going to actually begin the retraining? What can I do as a manager to take this information back to my staff and put -- enforce policies and procedures that would help protect women who are experiencing either sex trafficking or abuse, sexual abuse in any way? Because that's a difficult subject to talk about if you ever have a patient come in who expresses that." And so I really wanted to know how we dealt with that.
And she immediately shot me down and she said, "We're not here to talk about that, Ramona. We're here to teach you how to identify if you're being videotaped or recorded or entrapped in any way.""At that moment," Ramona said, "my heart just sunk. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I couldn't believe that we were actually there to train on how to identify if we're being recorded. Again, it goes back to why? Do we have something to hide? Why is this an issue for us? That experience for me left me so disgusted that I couldn't see how Planned Parenthood could ever redeem themselves after that."
In their paper, Lederer and Wetzel explore what Planned Parenthood and other health care providers could do in order to help protect and rescue sex trafficking victims, and to alert authorities who could bring the perpetrators to justice. Sadly, it doesn't seem that Planned Parenthood has any interest in moving in that direction. It's not the pimps and pedophiles that Planned Parenthood sees as problematic. It's the investigators who show what really happens behind closed doors.