The findings and methodology are presented for a study whose goal was to identify from young adult survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) barriers that prevented them from leaving commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), facilitators in exiting CSE, and how systems can better serve them.
The study used an exploratory, sequential mixed-methods approach that focused on young adults (ages 18-24) who were commercially sexually exploited before age 18. Procedures were guided by best practices for research on gender-based violence (WHO, 2001) and trafficking victims (Zimmerman & Watts, 2003) and were approved by university Institutional Review Boards and the Department of Justice's Human Subjects Protection Office. As of the writing of this report, 94 DMST victims had completed the survey (unfunded data collection is ongoing). Results from both phases of the project show that DMST victims experience early involvement with child protection services (CPS) and high levels of housing instability that apparently are influential in their sexual exploitation. This indicates the importance of early intervention at the family level. A high proportion of DMST victims became involved with the juvenile justice system, often multiple times before age 18. This suggests that the juvenile justice system can be an important setting for countering CSE. Intervention should incorporate supportive, mentoring relationships and offer rehabilitation that includes education and employment opportunities. The young adult study participants suggested that the juvenile justice system provide a more supportive, home-like environment that is staffed with qualified professionals and mentors who understand the factors underlying CSE victimization. 25 references and a listing of project products in process