Julia Geynisman, MDDebra Taubel, MD

While at the scrub sink several weeks ago, an attending obstetrician told me the story of a tattoo he had seen on a patient several years ago: “We were placing the Foley when we saw this life-size tattoo of a ruler on her inner thigh. You know, the full 12-inch school ruler kind. We asked her what the story was and the patient gave us attitude about the tattoo - didn’t want to really explain what it meant - she was a real tough girl, you know, and then she said, ‘its to measure the man’s penis.’” The obstetrician enjoyed this story and told it as a humorous example of how far modern women have come in their sexual empowerment. It was clear that he was oblivious of the possibility that this tattoo was not drawn by choice. Unfortunately, tattoos such as this are one of the hallmarks of the commercial sex industry - an exam finding that most of us in medicine are blind to recognizing and paralyzed to act on.

Recommended: Counseling women on reproductive and sexual coercion

Human trafficking, or rather, modern slavery, is an insidious and pervasive problem in our society. The United Nations defines sex trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, or harboring or an individual by means of threat, force, coercion or deception in order to exert control over that individual for the purpose of sexual exploitation. In the case of minors, no threat or coercion needs to occur. The legal definition simply states that any minor being sold for sex is a victim of trafficking.1

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