A new study found that about one-fifth of homeless youth have been targeted by sex traffickers.
Researchers from the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University Modern Slavery Research Project interviewed 911 homeless youth in 13 cities across the United States and Canada. The survey (about one-fifth) of respondents were forced to perform sex work for the profit of others.
Meanwhile, 7.4% of respondents had been trafficked for labor, and 3% were trafficked for both. Most labor trafficking cases (81%) were for forced drug dealing.
LGBTQ youth were disproportionately represented among those coerced into sex work. Though they only made up 19.2% of the respondents, they accounted for around a third of sex-trafficking victims. And 56% of trans youth said they had been involved in the sex trade, another disproportionately high percentage.
And, it must be noted, queer youths have a much higher rate of homelessness than straight youths do. Many of them are kicked or chased out by queerphobic families. Once homeless, they have trouble accessing housing due to further anti-LGBTQ discrimination from religious shelters and halfway houses. They’re a particularly vulnerable population.
The survey found that 91% of these trafficked youths were lured in with fraudulent promises of work opportunities.
Tragically, 95% of youth who were sex trafficked had a history of child abuse. Nearly half had a history of sexual abuse.
The sex trade involved girls more than it did boys; 40.5% of homeless female youths surveyed said they had done sex work, versus 25.3% of male youths.
“Too many youth are desperate and alone on the streets. Homelessness makes them vulnerable to traffickers,” said Kevin Ryan, president of Covenant House, a youth homelessness non-profit who collaborated on the study. He added, “If we want to reduce the number of youth who are trafficked, we have to end youth homelessness. We can, we must, and we should.”
(Header image via Pixabay)