Sexual Exploitation and Homelessness
Research Studies on Sexual Exploitation and Homelessness
- Bigelsen, J., & Vuotto, S. (2013). Homelessness, Survival Sex and Human Trafficking: As Experienced by the Youth of Covenant House New York. New York: Covenant House
Covenant House is New York City largest provider of comprehensive services to homeless youth age 16-21. In collaboration with the Applied Developmental Psychology Department at Fordham University to develop a sex trafficking screening tool to identify trafficking victims. Before interaction with Covenant House, 14.9% of youth experienced trafficking victimization; 23% had engaged in survival sex. Of trafficked youth, researchers found that approximately 1/3 were trafficking victims, because they traded sex for something of value, when they were less than 18 years of age. Approximately 1/3 were classified as victims because they traded sex due to force, fraud or coercion when they were less than 18 years of age. Around 3% were forced into labor servitude. Youth who experienced compelled sex trafficking also experienced violence, intimidation, and/or gang rape. Traffickers included family members, friends of family, or boyfriends who abused them. Shelter was the most frequent commodity traded for sexual activity; 48% said they did traded sex because they did not have a place to stay. Participants reported that traffickers loiter in areas where homeless youth are known to congregate and tell them shelters are full, offering them shelter. Risk factors for trafficking include homelessness, childhood sexual abuse, lack of supportive adults, lack of education, and marginalization from legitimized income. Findings indicate there is fluidity between sex trafficking and survival sex—regardless of type, all youth regretted trading sex. All transgender participants had engaged in the commercial sex trade. Lack of employment opportunities led to transgender youth to believe the commercial sex trade was their only option.
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