LOUISVILLE, Ky. – University of Louisville researchers found that 40 percent of the homeless youth surveyed in Louisville and southern Indiana reported they had been victims of sex trafficking, mostly in exchange for money or lodging, university officials announced today with Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear.
“Human trafficking represents the worst form of abuse, often to children, and it is increasing in Kentucky,” Beshear said. “That’s why my office is partnering with the public and private sectors to enhance and improve policy measures and training opportunities to increase resources and awareness to help end human trafficking. Research such as UofL’s study is important and will help our efforts to combat this form of modern-day slavery.”
The Youth Experiences Survey studied homeless youth aged 12-25 during two weeks in October 2016 to determine the scope of sex trafficking in Kentuckiana. More than three-quarters were from the area. The study showed approximately one of every two females and one of every three males reported being sex-trafficked with the average age of their first such experience at 16.
Youths who reported being sex-trafficked were more likely to be drug-addicted, diagnosed with more than one mental health problem and participate in self-harming, including suicide attempts.
The team hopes the findings will help communities better serve homeless youth through increased awareness of their specific experiences and needs, said Jennifer Middleton, assistant professor of social work and UofL Human Trafficking Research Initiative co-director. The findings will be shared this week at the 2017 Central Kentucky Human Trafficking Summit in Georgetown.
“This study provides us with a snapshot of the complexities homeless youth face, particularly youth who have experienced sex trafficking. The results highlight the need for early identification and screening of sex-trafficked youth as well as enhanced, trauma-informed services to help them,” Middleton said.
The UofL Human Trafficking Research Initiative at the Kent School of Social Work conducted the study with the aid of YMCA Safe Place Services, Transition Age Youth Launching Realized Dreams (TAYLRD), Home of the Innocents, Haven House, Center for Women and Families, Clark County Youth Shelter, Floyd County Youth Services and the Kristy Love Foundation.