There are an estimated 57,700 people in modern slavery in the US according to GSI estimates. Research indicates that runaway and homeless youth populations face notable vulnerabilities to human trafficking. Covenant House, one of the U.S.’ largest privately-funded childcare agencies aiding runways and homeless children, has been conducting research on the prevalence of human trafficking and survival sex as well as labour trafficking among homeless and runaway youth in New York City, New York, and New Orleans, Louisiana. The research supported the findings that vulnerabilities such as housing insecurity were critical motivating factors in prompting minors to engage in survival sex.
Niko was forced to leave his parent’s home after they refused to accept his sexual orientation. As a result, he became vulnerable to exploitation. In this narrative Niko talks about how anyone can be vulnerable to trafficking and how he worked to dispel the feeling of self-guilt surrounding his abuse.
It just...it was awful, the whole experience.
Trafficking, it doesn’t know any boundaries. And it happens all over America. So I came from kind of a more privileged background, but I still...it still happened to me—and a male. The victim can be male, female, transgendered, anyone.
You’re initially brainwashed. And then, over a period of time, you become conditioned where you start to accept that this is all you can do.
I was kicked out of my parents’ home because of my sexual orientation, and, in a lot of ways, it really conditioned me for being very vulnerable
To describe the relationship between the trafficker and a victim is a domestic violence situation. There’s this connection to the abuser.
The biggest thing that I went through was therapy and acceptance. Acceptance that the abuse that I went through, I didn’t deserve; that I didn’t bring that on myself. I relocated out to Los Angeles for graduate school in psychology. I wanted to work with, not just the victim, but the whole victim support network—family members, friends, whoever is in their support network.
Courtesy of the Office for Victims of Crime