Arizona State University researchers have identified 161 sex-trafficking victims who are in both the state’s juvenile justice system and more than one youth service program. Researchers say their findings indicate that service agencies failed to flag potential sex-trafficking victims due to a lack of established protocol and missed opportunities to provide appropriate services. The survey was conducted in March by the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research in ASU’s School of Social Work.
Nearly 80 percent of the victims who offered detailed accounts were also involved in Child Protective Services, according to the report. “So what that says is, we’ve missed them in two different ways,” said Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research. “There are all these pieces that we need to learn about.”
The research is part of a growing national initiative to stamp out sex trafficking and to identify those trafficked as victims, rather than prostitutes. But despite the groundswell of national attention, reliable research the topic largely remains elusive. Roe-Sepowitz said sex trafficking is an emerging and complicated research topic, often because providers are unaware of what factors qualify a client to be a victim.
“If they’re working with minors, the understanding that everyone under the age of 18 who exchanges sex for goods or services — regardless of force, fraud or coercion — is a sex-trafficking victim is not well known,” she said. “We’re still educating and still making sure that people understand that, under age 18, you can’t prostitute, you can’t exchange your body for sex.”
Learn more at Megan Cassidy’s AZCentral.com article: Study points to problems in aiding sex-trafficking victims.