While human trafficking affects every demographic, studies show that LGBTQ+ youth are at an elevated risk for being trafficked. This risk comes from higher rates of discrimination, less social and economic support, and higher rates of homelessness than the average youth (Polaris Project.) This combination of vulnerabilities culminates in an increased risk of sex trafficking and exploitation.
We want to highlight the intersectionality between human trafficking and LGBTQ+ youth and what you can do to help.
Why Are LGBTQ+ Youth At Risk?
Traffickers often target and exploit vulnerabilities, playing on a need for belonging and safety in exchange for sexual favors. Data shows that:
· Up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ and 46% of those youth ran away from home due to family rejection, a risk factor we know can increase the risk of human trafficking (Polaris.)
· Studies show that up to 86% of LGBTQ students report verbal bullying at school because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, and nearly a quarter have been physically attacked by their peers (Polaris.)
· LGBTQ youth are 7.4x more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than their heterosexual peers (Polaris.) To survive on their own, many LGBTQ homeless youth will engage in sex to provide food, shelter and other necessities. They are up to seven times more likely to engage in survival sex than their non-LGBTQ peers.
· 46% of LGBTQ+ youth report they wanted psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in the past 12 months (The Trevor Project.)
Human trafficking and child exploitation are complicated, and no one risk factor determines a vulnerable individual’s future. Understanding these risk factors can help individuals recognize, report, and prevent such situations from occurring.
How You Can Make a Difference
One’s sexual orientation or sexual identification should not automatically put them at a higher risk of being trafficked or exploited. Here are some ways to reduce vulnerabilities to trafficking and exploitation for youth in your community:
· Extend love, support and inclusivity to the LGBTQ+ youth in your own community through local organizations or your own circle.
· Listen to their stories and speak out against discrimination when you see it.
· Re-educate yourself on the signs of human trafficking and how to report suspected crimes.
As we work together towards better outcomes for our LGBTQ+ youth, we hope to create a more inclusive and loving environment that may reduce exploitation and trafficking cases.
National Coalition for the Homeless: LGBT Homeless FactSheet
The Trevor Project: National Survey on LGTBQ Youth Mental Health 2020