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Sex Trafficking and Substance Use, Identifying High-Priority Needs Within the Criminal Justice System

NCJ Number
Date Published
28 pages

Recognizing the importance of understanding the intersection between sex trafficking victimization and substance use disorders (SUDs), this paper provides guidance in tailoring services to sex trafficking victims that ensure those with SUDs can access services that are responsive to their needs.



This paper identifies the features of services needed for sex trafficking victims and the importance of training frontline workers in procedures for ensuring that sex trafficking victims with SUDs are identified and referred to appropriate SUDs treatment. The recommendations in this paper stem from a virtual workshop held to develop a prioritized list of needs for addressing the intersections between sex trafficking and substance use, focusing on the identification of and response to these circumstances. The workshop was attended by community members, victim service practitioners, law enforcement and first responders, and court practitioners. Through Individual interviews and virtual group discussions, participants shared their experiences in responding to and serving victims of sex trafficking who also have co-occurring SUDs. The participants identified and prioritized 58 needs and combinations of potential solutions that address 26 key problems or challenges. The current report focuses on the 21 needs participants considered to be the highest priority, with additional context on these issues and solutions from workshop discussions. These are outlined under the service categories of identification and screening, treatment and services, and criminal justice response.

Date Published: January 1, 2022