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Study Spotlights Gaps in Services for LGBTQ Victims of Human Trafficking, Youth

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery and restore freedom to survivors, today reiterated its call for more resources to be put towards serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) victims of human trafficking following the release of a study from the Urban Institute. In a first of its kind report, “Surviving the Streets of New York” explored the experiences of nearly 300 youth engaged in survival sex who identified as LGBTQ, young men who have sex with men (YMSM), and young women who have sex with women (YWSW). Over 14 percent of the youth faced force, fraud, or coercion by pimps or exploiters during at least one point in their experience.

Notably, the study found severe gaps in services for teens who traded sex in order to make money for basic needs like food, shelter, and medical care. Many of the LGBTQ, YMSM, and YWSW youth entered the commercial sex industry due to discrimination and forced homelessness by family members, or as the result of family poverty, abuse and exploitation, and emotional trauma. The study found that 72 percent of the youth wanted to stop trading sex at some point or immediately, while another 21 percent said they had already stopped trading sex.

“The Urban Institute’s landmark study sheds light on the severe gaps in services that exist for LGBTQ youth and the tremendous need for our country to strengthen their safety net. From operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline and direct victim service centers, we know that LGBTQ victims of human trafficking require comprehensive services,” said Sarah Jakiel, Polaris’s Chief Programs Officer. “Existing services for human trafficking victims must be made available for this population. LGBTQ victims and survivors who reach out for help should receive it without facing institutional barriers, discrimination, or violence on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. We call on law enforcement, service providers, lawmakers and agencies at all levels, and advocates across the country to not only read this report, but work towards implementing its recommendations.”

The Urban Institute found that LGBTQ, YMSM, and YWSW youth lacked access to voluntary and low-threshold services, such as housing and shelter, employment, food security, and gender-affirming healthcare. The study also found that youth experienced institutional barriers, high rates of denial, violence from confidentiality breaches, and unsafe discriminatory treatment by staff on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and age. 

To read the study, findings, and recommendations, click here


About Polaris

Polaris is a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery. Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., Polaris acts as a catalyst to systemically disrupt the human trafficking networks that rob human beings of their lives and their freedom. By working with government leaders, the world’s leading technology corporations, and local partners, Polaris equips communities to identify, report, and prevent human trafficking. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of what we do – helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they operate. Learn more at

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