Survivors of sex trafficking are usually treated as criminals rather than victims. But some courts have begun to recognize that those arrested on prostitution charges are often victims of coercion, violence, and trauma. Our new video, From Defendant to Survivor, profiles the innovative approaches being taken by courts in Los Angeles, New York City, and Columbus, Ohio.
Based on more than 300 in-depth interviews with adults involved in New York City’s multifaceted sex trade, this study describes a murky and mutable continuum between involvement in the trade due to force and choice. It also examines a unique criminal justice response: New York City's Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, developed to mitigate some of the harm trafficking victims experience in the criminal justice system.
In this New Thinking podcast, Ann Johnson, an assistant district attorney and the human trafficking section chief with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, discusses her office's strategies for combating human trafficking, including increased enforcement against traffickers and buyers, and diversion from prosecution for victims. One of the office's diversion program, SAFE Court, gives those ages 17 to 25 who are charged with prostitution the opportunity to clear the charge from their criminal records by completing a yearlong program of monitoring and social services.
This article outlines lessons from the Human Trafficking and the State Courts Collaborative relevant to all justice system stakeholders. It offers concrete recommendations for multidisciplinary partnerships on how to cultivate and sustain collaboration.
This study in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif. included 136 interviews with youth engaged in the sex trade. Findings show that young people’s involvement in the sex trade mostly fell into three categories: pimps, renegades, and street kids. Although the Bay Area site saw the highest percentage of youth working with pimps (29%) as compared to the other five sites in the study, the large majority of those interviewed were identified as “renegades”—a term used to describe individuals who work on their own without anyone to facilitate their involvement in the sex trade.
This study of youth engaged in the sex trade in Miami, Fla. included 264 interviews with young people ages 13-24, nearly all of whom were black or Hispanic and from lower income backgrounds. Most of the respondents faced various social and economic challenges throughout their young lives, and engaging in the sex trade served as a way to support an insecure living situation. Many worked on the streets year-round, given Miami’s warm weather even in winter months.
This report discusses the context and findings from 169 in-depth interviews conducted with youth ages 24 and younger in Las Vegas, Nev. Researchers found that many of the youth drifted in and out of the sex trade, engaging when quick money was needed, but also going through non-working periods, mirroring the instability that participants also faced in their living situations and in their relationships with family and school.
This study in Dallas, Tex. included interviews with youth, ages 13-24, who were engaged in the sex trade. Most of the youth interviewed worked on their own and were not closely networked to others in the sex trade. Researchers repeatedly found strong-willed survivors who enjoyed substantial autonomy in the selection of customers, work hours, and living conditions. For many transgender and gay youth, personal or familial struggles as a result of their sexuality and/or gender identity may have led them into the sex trade.