To address the complex needs of diverse sex trafficked children and emerging youth, multiple states are establishing protocols to identify and refer trafficked individuals to trafficking-specific and non-specific services, such as housing, mental health/substance use, intimate partner violence, foster care, immigration. Studies suggest that minors may be trafficked in diverse ways (i.e. pimp-controlled, survival sex). Additionally, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, as well as women and girls of color, are at increased risk. Yet the extent to which services are available for and inclusive of all potential survivors of sex trafficking remains understudied. This study’s research questions were:
- What trafficking-specific organizations are available in a Midwestern region designated as a trafficking hub?
- To what extent do organizations that encounter potentially sex trafficked individuals include public information about providing services to individuals who:
- Are impacted by trafficking?
- Are LGBTQ*+?
- Are people of color (POC)?
Methods: We conducted a content analysis with methodologies suggested by Berg (2003) and Graneheim and Lundman (2004) in a region of a north Midwestern state. A 2016 legislative act mandated the state’s child welfare agencies to investigate allegations of sex trafficking and tasked this region to develop a response plan for potential cases of trafficking, including referrals to trafficking specific and non-specific services for care. We gathered data by searching social service websites within each regional county and compiled a total of 186 trafficking-specific (n=7) and non-trafficking-specific organizations (n=179) that encounter trafficked individuals.
We systematically analyzed 186 organizational websites for three content areas: 1) Sex trafficking indicators (statements, photos, symbols), 2) LGBTQ+ Identities (symbols, language), and 3) Diverse racial and ethnic identities (Spanish-accessible services, intersectional diversity statements, images of individuals perceived as POC). Content analysis areas are defined as statements, words, photos, or symbols relating to central meanings. Data was independently co-coded by two research team members. Discrepancies were found to be minimal and discussed until consensus was reached.
Results: Seven (n=7) trafficking-specific organizations were identified, of which two provide residential services. One (n=1) described working with individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, one (n=1) indicated providing Spanish-accessible services (through language line, interpreter, or bilingual practitioner), and three (n=3) featured photos of individuals perceived as POC. No website included an intersectional, anti-discrimination policy.
Of the non-trafficking specific organizations (n=178), 1% (n=3) included information about services provided to trafficking survivors, less than 12% (n=21) stated that they provided services to individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, 6% (n=10) included LGBTQ+ symbols/language. Twelve percent (n=22) indicated they could provide Spanish-accessible services, 36% (n=65) featured individuals perceived as POC, and 6% (n=11) included an intersectional anti-discrimination policy.
Implications: Shortage of trafficking specific services may create challenges for addressing sex trafficking, particularly as awareness and identification increase. Lack of inclusive language, photos, and symbols may contribute to trafficking survivors who identify as POC, English language learners, or as LGBTQ* feeling as though services do not apply to them. Recommendations for diversity training as well as appropriate and helpful use of language, photos, and symbols will be discussed.