Modern Slavery Research Project comes out with new data about human trafficking

They come to it from different walks of life Alone, Afraid and Vulnerable. Many were homeless. Others were taken advantage of by someone close to them. But the one thing they had in common is that they were trafficked


Starlight Williams

Photo illustration by Naasha Dotiwala and Starlight Williams

Colleen Dulle and Haley Pegg

UPDATED: April 29, 2017 at 12:43 p.m.

Nearly one in five homeless youths are victims of human trafficking.

This statistic was among the new findings from Loyola University New Orleans’ Modern Slavery Research Project. Between February 2014 and June 2016, members of the project conducted a full study on the prevalence of human trafficking on homeless youth.

Researchers partnered with Covenant House International, a satellite group of shelters for homeless youth. They interviewed participants aged between 17 and 25 from Covenant House sites in the United States and Canada.

Professor Laura Murphy led the project with help from student interns at Loyola and Tulane University, as an extension to a study she conducted with professors Rae Taylor and Christian Bolden in New Orleans two years ago. Murphy, Taylor and Bolden personally interviewed 99 homeless youth at the local Covenant House shelter and then replicated the same study in nine other cities: Atlanta; Anchorage, Alaska; Toronto; Vancouver; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Detroit; St. Louis; Oakland, California and Los Angeles. Student interns transcribed the interviews and then Murphy organized the findings into a report.

“My biggest hope is that people will see this as an economic problem that requires economic answers. We can send as many people to jail as we want, but until we have reasonable housing, jobs and a living wage for people who are down on their luck, those folks will continue to be vulnerable​ to traffickers,” Murphy said.

According to the report, a total of 641 homeless youth participated in the study. Of the youth who were interviewed, 19 percent were identified as victims of human trafficking. More than 14 percent had been trafficked for sex, eight percent were trafficked for labor and three percent were trafficked for both sex and labor. Of the participants, 91 percent reported being approached by someone offering an opportunity for income that was “too good to be true.”

Marley Duet, English sophomore, helped with the project as a research assistant. She helped mostly with transcribing interviews and coding them using a computer program.

According to the study, nearly 58 percent of participants who were identified as sex trafficking victims were in situations of force or coercion.

“The coercion factor comes in with homeless youth because a lot of them haven’t received much education, and also, they’re very young still, so they don’t have a lot of experience knowing their rights as a worker,” Duet said.

Lauren Stroh, cultural studies senior, also helped with the project research. Stroh called attention to important specific information she and other researchers discovered, particularly focusing on statistics involving youth within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The study found 24 percent of LGBT youth interviewed were victims of sex trafficking versus 12 percent of non-LGBT youth.

The full report, “Labor and Sex Trafficking Among Homeless Youth,” is available online.