Youth Voice on Pathways into Sexual Exploitation: Opportunities for Prevention and Intervention
September 11 | 9:00 - 10:00 AM | Room 2592
Research across disciplines shows homeless youth are uniquely vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. Yet few studies have explored how youth view sexual exploitation. This qualitative study uses participatory methods to explore how young adults define sexual exploitation, pathways into involvement, and opportunities for prevention and intervention. Twenty-four female-identifying young adults (ages 18-23) currently or formerly experiencing homelessness were recruited from a youth serving agency in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The sample is diverse with respect to race/ethnicity, including African American, Latina, Native American, and Caucasian participants. Participants described experiences in line with documented pathways including desperation, immaturity, the strong role of peers, and violent romantic relationships. Uniquely, participants connected survival sex with participation in the commercial sex industry and pimp-mediated sex trafficking. Results yield novel perspective on the continuum of sexual exploitation experienced by youth, connecting constructs previously thought of as distinct. Participants also shed new light on how this shift in perspective affects intervention. Paradoxically, accessing homeless youth services may flag youth as more vulnerable to exploitation. Findings indicate that all youth experiencing homelessness regularly confront solicitations and experiences around sexual exploitation. From the youth perspective, intervention efforts must engage the entire homeless youth community.
1) To better understand the spectrum of sexually exploitative situations homeless youth navigate.
2) To better understand the pathways/recruitment methods that lead to sexual exploitation for the purpose of recognizing those pathways and being able to intervene.
3) To apply this knowledge to prevention and early intervention efforts among the homeless youth population.