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.
Researchers suggest that this vulnerability stems especially from:
- Family rejection
- Emotional/physical abuse involving caretakers’ lack of acceptance
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%)
Research looking at LGBTQ 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.
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.”
Watch this video to learn more about his story.
Ira, who was trafficked and exploited from 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…”
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.
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.
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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