Human Trafficking
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Human Trafficking

Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Mary C. Burke, Mary C. Burke

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eBook - ePub

Human Trafficking

Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Mary C. Burke, Mary C. Burke

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About This Book

In Human Trafficking: Interdisciplinary Perspectives experts from a wide range of disciplinary and professional backgrounds provide a uniquely comprehensive understanding of human trafficking in the twenty-first century.

Chapter authors consider historical, sociocultural, legal, public health, human rights, and psychological aspects of this issue. New chapters address important topics such as racism, child soldiers, organ trafficking, and the role of technology and the banking industry in trafficking. The third edition also explores the ways in which institutionalized oppression of people of color, Native Americans, and those in the LGBTQ+ community can underlie vulnerability of these populations to being trafficked.

Human Trafficking is essential reading for professionals in law enforcement, human services, and health care, and for concerned citizens interested in human rights and making a difference in their communities. This book is also intended for use in undergraduate and graduate interdisciplinary courses in human trafficking.

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Brief Overview of Human Trafficking of Sexual Minorities

In recent years, human trafficking research expanded on the narrow focus of sex trafficking of women and girls to include other forms of trafficking and vulnerable populations. Human trafficking scholars have explored vulnerabilities of racial and ethnic minorities (Brunovskis & Surtees, 2010; Bryant-Davis & Tummala-Narra, 2017; Deer, 2009; Stumblingbear-Riddle et al., 2019), physical and mental disabilities (Franchino-Olsen et al., 2020; Reid, 2018), addiction and substance abuse (Stoklosa et al., 2017), and more recently, sexual minorities (Atteberry-Ash et al., 2019; Boukli & Renz, 2019; Hogan & Roe-Sepowitz, 2020). While research interests have been more inclusive of various vulnerable groups outside of the traditional focus on women and girls, exploration into understanding the unique vulnerabilities of each group is still limited.
Figure 10.1 Risk factors for human trafficking related to sexual minority status
Gaining particular trafficking research attention are sexual minorities or those “whose sexual identity, orientation or practices differ from the majority of the surrounding society” and generally include lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, transgender, and gender nonbinary or nonconforming individuals (Liberties-K, 2001; Math & Seshadri, 2013). Often, human trafficking literature avoided sexual minorities in dominant victim narratives and frameworks. Hyperfocused on the sex trafficking of cis-gender girls and young women, migrants labor trafficking, and national security, early human trafficking framing impacted the scope of research and subsequent policies, programs, and services responding to victims (Boukli & Renz, 2019; Brennan, 2017; Chuang, 2014; Farrell & Fahy, 2009; Schwarz & Britton, 2015). Over 20 years after passing the initial Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), labor trafficking research gained little knowledge of forced labor beyond the exploitation of immigrants who are made vulnerable due to language, legal, and location barriers prohibiting access to legal protections and social services. Sex trafficking has largely been framed within a heterosexual context involving hetero men who take advantage of vulnerable girls and women through a “grooming” process, coercion, or trafficking across borders into a foreign country (Dempsey, 2010; Farr, 2005; Soderlund, 2005; Weitzer, 2007). While this does occur, the dominant narrative of trafficking and victims limits the understanding of trafficking situations beyond women and girls forced into sex trafficking.
Trafficking of sexual minorities is a growing area of human trafficking research that notably expands on homeless youth exploited in sex trafficking. More recent studies have focused on specific populations, such as transgender youth and young adult victims of human trafficking; however, sexual minorities are commonly treated as a monolith in research and grouped into one category. Without distinguishing between subpopulations of any diverse group, the findings then diminish the unique experiences and challenges of each subgroup. Studies acknowledging sexual minorities within the general population usually include minority gender or orientation categories to examine sexual minority outcomes as a subpopulation within a predominantly heterosexual study population. Many studies examine sexual minorities within the context of homeless youth and commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), also termed domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST), finding that sexual minorities are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking compared to heterosexual peers. Few studies move passed these initial findings that only begin to unravel the vulnerabilities of trafficked sexual minorities. Unfortunately, there is little available research on labor exploitation of sexual minorities, even though individuals identifying as LGBTI+ have been excluded from legal employment (Fehrenbacher et al., 2020; Martinez & Kelle, 2013).
Globally, identifying as a sexual minority is still considered taboo in many countries. According to the most recent ILGA State-sponsored Homophobia Report (2020), minority sexual orientations continues to be criminalized in 70 states, while laws banning gender non-conforming activities, such as crossdressing, specifically target gender expression and de facto criminalize transgender persons (ILGA World et al., 2020). Primarily due to the sensitive nature and safety of sexual minorities, research involving sexual minorities derives from progressive, LGBTI+ accepting countries where sexual minorities have stronger protections by law and openly identifying as a sexual minority is less stigmatizing and hazardous. With ethical and safety concerns for sexual minorities in many countries, a biased perspective appears in research regarding human trafficking of sexual minorities and is largely representative of experiences by those from the US, UK, and Canada. Although human trafficking research has been incorporating sexual minorities into studies, trafficking and forced exploitation of sexual minorities remains globally underresearched.

Risk Factors for Trafficking Vulnerabilities

Human trafficking literature identifies sexual minority status, both orientation and gender, as a risk factor for human trafficking. Several studies reveal an overrepresentation of sexual minorities among sexually exploited victims (Chohaney, 2016; Choi, 2015; Choi et al., 2015; Dank et al., 2015); however, few studies venture into the underlying reasons as to why being a sexual minority serves as a risk factor and make the connection between vulnerability and victimization. Simply identifying as a sexual minority is not inherently the direct cause of being vulnerable to exploitation. Social issues, such as societal oppression and systematic inequality, collectively fail to protect those vulnerable from becoming victims. Compounding emotional instability or lack of support with societal oppression and stigma further increases vulnerability to victimization (Twis, 2020). The following sections describe risk factors that increase vulnerability of sexual minorities to trafficking victimization.

Family Conflict and Childhood Abuse

One of the most significant factors underlying contribution to increasing vulnerability to human trafficking for sexual minorities is familial conflict. Youth who identify as a sexual minority frequently face the unique challenge of family intolerance for their orientation or gender identity. Families may verbalize their disagreements with “lifestyles” of sexual minorities and LGBTI+ community as a whole. Those with stronger negative views toward sexual minorities go beyond verbal disagreements and clearly express intolerance or even hatred for the sexual minorities. Youth identifying as sexual minorities in intolerant households endure tumultuous relationships with their families (Chohaney, 2016; Choi et al., 2015; Hart et al., 2018). Even when youth are not open about their sexual identities, suspicion of youth identifying as a sexual minority or exhibiting behaviors that do not conform to traditional gendered roles and stereotypes can lead to similar family conflict. In a study by Chohaney (2016), the author noted that after controlling for informal social control, poor parental relationships play a significant role as a risk factor for sex trafficking. Further contributing to increased vulnerabilities to trafficking, hatred toward sexual minorities can escalate to LGBTI+ youth being kicked out of their homes by intolerant family members (Chohaney, 2016; Dank et al., 2015).
Dysfunctional family relationships due to strong intolerance toward sexual minorities can become abusive and further exacerbate vulnerabilities to trafficking. One study found that negative childhood experiences increase the likelihood of being victimized in trafficking (Reid, 2012, pp. 93–95). Although the study focused on the sexual exploitation of cis-gender girls, the findings can extend to sexual minorities. Reid (2012, p. 100) found that childhood maltreatment in the form of negative and abusive relationships with parents, particularly mothers, causes a chain of events, including abuse, attempts by youth to escape, drug abuse, and sexual denigration, that increases the possibility of becoming a trafficking victim and being sexual exploited.
Childhood maltreatment is more common among sexual minority youth than their heterosexual peers. In a US study of 2,917 adult participants, men who identify as either gay or bisexual reported higher rates of childhood trauma including emotional and physical maltreatment than the heterosexual men, while lesbian and bisexual women participants experienced higher rates of physical and more extreme forms of physical abuse in childhood compared to heterosexual women in the study (Corliss et al., 2002). Sexual minorities also have higher rates of adverse childhood experiences and maltreatment compared to heterosexual individuals in childhood (Andersen & Blosnich, 2013). Lesbian and bisexual women are also more likely to report physical and sexual abuse in childhood and adolescence compared to heterosexual women. In frequency, severity, and persistence, physical and sexual abuse is more commonly reported by women who identify as sexual minorities (Austin et al., 2008). Among sexual minority men, psychological distress is reportedly higher than heterosexual men attributable to stress from childhood abuse (Hart et al., 2018). The study also shows that the stress of childhood torment from being bullied for not conforming to masculine gendered roles further contributes to increased rates of adulthood distress among sexual minority men (Hart et al., 2018). Bontempo and d’Augelli (2002) find that youth identifying as sexual minorities have a greater risk for experiencing victimization in school than their heterosexual peers. Examining adolescents, Friedman et al. (2011) explain that those who identify as a sexual minority are more likely to have adverse childhood experiences including trauma, parent abuse, peer victimization, and sexual abuse compared to heterosexuals. They reveal that sexual minorities are 3.8 times more likely to experience sexual abuse, 1.2 times more likely to experience parental physical abuse, 1.7 times more likely to endure assault at school, and 2.4 times more likely to miss school because of fear. Childhood maltreatment through physical, emotional, and sexual abuse consistently associate with trafficking victimization.
While childhood maltreatment, including physical and sexual abuse, strongly relates to forced exploitation and human trafficking, the association between maltreatment and exploitation is weaker and less consistent than childhood emotional abuse. Examining physical, sexual, and emotional abuse among sexual minorities, childhood emotional abuse is the strongest predictor of psychological distress (Balsam et al., 2010). Childhood emotional abuse also strongly associates with DMST in a study with 273 youth and adults engaged in commercial sex or exploited in sex trafficking (Fedina et al., 2019). Roe-Sepowitz (2012) concludes that childhood emotional abuse, running away or missing from care, and survival sex strongly correlate with sexual exploitation, but only childhood emotional abuse remained significant related to CSEC at a younger age. These findings strengthen insight into how emotional abuse increases vulnerability to human trafficking. Sexual minority youth are already at a greater risk of experiencing emotional and physical abuse at home and bullying victimization in school for not conforming to gendered norms. Childhood emotional abuse is a critical risk factor for human trafficking among those identifying as sexual minorities.

Homelessness and Running Away

Runaway and homeless youth are especially vulnerable to exploitation (Fong & Cardoso, 2010). Without resources or shelter, homeless youth are forced to rely on those willing to take advantage of their vulnerable position in order to meet their basic needs (Dank et al., 2015). Youth running away from home often do so to escape or avoid harmful, difficult home environments. Factors youth may face such as trauma, abuse, neglect, assault, and general dysfunctional home lives encourage youth to run away from home or their caregivers.
Sexual minorities are overrepresented among youth experiencing homelessness (Choi et al., 2015; Dank et al., 2017; Hogan & Roe-Sepowitz, 2020; Kattari & Begun, 2017; National Coalition for the Homeless, 2017). It is estimated that between 20% and 40% of homeless and runaway youth identify as LGBTI+ but are only 5% to 7% of the general youth population (Forge et al., 2018; Quintana et al., 2010). As explained previously, sexual minorities experience childhood maltreatment, family disfunction, and abuse because of their LG...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Human Trafficking
APA 6 Citation
[author missing]. (2022). Human Trafficking (3rd ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2022)
Chicago Citation
[author missing]. (2022) 2022. Human Trafficking. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
[author missing] (2022) Human Trafficking. 3rd edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
[author missing]. Human Trafficking. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis, 2022. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.