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Why LGBTQ+ Youth Disproportionately Experience Sexual Exploitation

Due to a variety of factors, LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately vulnerable to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. Here's why that is.

By September 27, 2022No Comments

Trigger warning: This post contains descriptions of abuse.

Due to a variety of factors including discrimination, abuse, and a lack of social acceptance, LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately vulnerable to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.Xian, K., Chock, S., & Dwiggins, D. (2017). LGBTQ youth and vulnerability to sex trafficking. In M. Chisolm-Straker, & H. Stoklosa (Eds.), Human trafficking is a public health issue: A paradigm expansion in the United States (pp. 141). Switzerland: Springer Nature. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-47824-1 Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2F978-3-319-47824-1.pdfCopy 

Researchers suggest that this vulnerability stems especially from:

  • Family rejection
  • Abandonment
  • Emotional/physical abuse involving caretakers’ lack of acceptanceXian, K., Chock, S., & Dwiggins, D. (2017). LGBTQ youth and vulnerability to sex trafficking. In M. Chisolm-Straker, & H. Stoklosa (Eds.), Human trafficking is a public health issue: A paradigm expansion in the United States (pp. 141). Switzerland: Springer Nature. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-47824-1 Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2F978-3-319-47824-1.pdfCopy 

Live Presentations

According to an analysis of prosecuted trafficking cases in the U.S., two of the most common pre-existing conditions that make underage victims vulnerable to sex trafficking are:

  • Having run away from home (63%)
  • Experiencing homelessness (9%)Feehs, K., & Wheeler, A. C. (2021). 2020 federal human trafficking report. Human Trafficking Institute. Retrieved from https://www.traffickinginstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/2020-Federal-Human-Trafficking-Report-Low-Res.pdfCopy 

Research looking at LGBT youth indicates that they are 120% more likely to experience homelessness, compared to heterosexual/cisgender youth. In fact, approximately 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT.Morton, M.H., Dworsky, A., & Samuels, G.M. (2017). Missed opportunities: Youth homelessness in America. National estimates. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. Retrieved from: https://voicesofyouthcount.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/VoYC-National-Estimates-Brief-Chapin-Hall-2017.pdfCopy Durso, L.E., & Gates, G.J. (2012). Serving Our Youth: Findings from a National Survey of Service Providers Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth who are Homeless or At Risk of Becoming Homeless. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute with True Colors Fund and The Palette Fund.Copy 

Related: How Porn Can Misrepresent and Fetishize LGBTQ+ Individuals and Relationships

As one trafficking survivor named Jose said:

“It was at the end of the age of 15… All of this happened all at once—my parents giving up on me, kicking me out [because I am gay], telling me that they basically don’t approve of anything that I am. And then [my trafficker] sexually abusing me, and then the trafficking… I didn’t realize it, but it was so much trauma that had happened in such a short time that I began experiencing PTSD.”Jonsson, G. (Host). (2020, August 26). Jose: human trafficking survivor, public speaker, & activist. (No. 27) (Audio podcast episode). In Consider Before Consuming. Fight the New Drug. https://considerbeforeconsumingpodcast.com/jose/Copy 

Watch this video to learn more about his story.

Ira, who was trafficked and exploited starting at age eight, says:

“My biological mother hated the fact that I was gay. The only time it was okay for me to be gay was when these older men wanted to pay…to take me for the evening…”Caruso, Z. (2015). LGBT survivors of human trafficking share their stories to shed light on a brutal practice. Retrieved from https://watermarkonline.com/2015/02/26/lgbt-survivors-of-human-trafficking-share-their-stories-in-hopes-of-shedding-light-on-a-brutal-practice/Copy 

LGBTQ+ youth who feel rejected because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are particularly vulnerable to manipulation by predators or traffickers who often pretend to offer a safe and accepting space before taking advantage of them.Xian, K., Chock, S., & Dwiggins, D. (2017). LGBTQ youth and vulnerability to sex trafficking. In M. Chisolm-Straker, & H. Stoklosa (Eds.), Human trafficking is a public health issue: A paradigm expansion in the United States (pp. 141). Switzerland: Springer Nature. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-47824-1 Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2F978-3-319-47824-1.pdfCopy 

Related: Does the Porn Industry Really Care About Empowering Women?

While many LGBTQ+ youth turn to porn to learn more about their own sexuality, porn often fetishizes, misrepresents, and exploits the LGBTQ+ community in ways that can provide a toxic blueprint for vulnerable youth trying to learn about their own sexuality.Harvey, P. (2020). Let’s Talk About Porn: The Perceived Effect of Online Mainstream Pornography on LGBTQ Youth. In: Farris, D., Compton, D., Herrera, A. (eds) Gender, Sexuality and Race in the Digital Age. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-29855-5_3Copy 

Get The Facts

Porn often fetishizes, misrepresents, and exploits the LGBTQ+ community in ways that can provide a toxic blueprint for vulnerable youth trying to learn about their own sexuality.Harvey, P. (2020). Let’s talk about porn: The perceived effect of online mainstream pornography on LGBTQ youth. In D. N. Farris, D. R. Compton & A. P. Herrera (Eds.), Gender, sexuality and race in the digital age (pp. 31-52). Cham: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-29855-5_3 Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-29855-5_3Copy 

In the fight against trafficking and exploitation, it’s important to be aware of factors that can make someone vulnerable to victimization, including discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

If you or someone you know is being trafficked, call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

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