Primary Sources: Screening Youth for Sex Trafficking

Photograph of a young woman hiding in an alley.

Invisibility: A Study of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Jefferson County, Alabama (PDF, 2035 KB), Freedom to Thrive and Youth & Family Services Network, 2010.

What it's about: The report brings to light the pervasive problem of sex trafficking in Alabama's Jefferson County and addresses the role social service agencies play in working with sexually trafficked runaway and homeless youth.

Why read it: While the report pertains to one county, youth workers can learn from it how to better identify and serve victims of sex trafficking, understand the consequences of sex trafficking for individuals and communities, and work with partners to raise awareness about and develop resources to combat sex trafficking in their communities.

Biggest take away for youth workers: Because so many homeless youth are trafficked for sex, youth workers should, when bringing youth into their programs, determine whether young people been sexually exploited. The authors suggest asking directly about sexual exploitation using both a trauma-informed approach and a strengths-based perspective. Trauma-informed questions allow youth workers to better understand the effects of trauma on the client. For example, a case manager might ask, “What has been the hardest part about your situation?” or “Who has hurt you the most in your life?” Strengths-based questions re-frame the discussion to empower youth instead of invading their privacy. For example: "When you’re in trouble, who do you turn to for help?” or “How have you survived this situation so far?”

Additional reference: Read NCFY's publications "Bought and Sold: Helping Young People Escape From Commercial Sexual Exploitation" and "Asking: 'What’s Happened to You?' A Focus on Trauma-informed Care."

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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