Stand against Human Trafficking with Covenant House
Resources and data
Human Trafficking Research
Research allows us to understand the intricacies of human trafficking and the scope of its impact on survivors. But survivors often are reluctant to or prohibited from coming forward. This makes it challenging to collect accurate data that could help stop to this criminal industry.
Covenant House has provided trusted and transformative care and shelter to young people facing homelessness for nearly 35 years. We are therefore uniquely positioned to advance research into human trafficking and its impact. Our research exposes the toll of human trafficking on children and youth, continually updates and improves our practices of care. It additionally informs our advocacy efforts to protect all young people, especially children and youth experiencing homelessness.
Several Covenant House sites have collaborated with exceptional research partners to unite our experience to their analytical expertise and produce groundbreaking studies with impact. Below are details from our most recent research projects, with links to the full reports.
1. Prevalence and Nature of Human Trafficking among Youth Experiencing Homelessness in the United States and Canada
From February 2014 to March 2017, Covenant House invited researchers from Loyola University (New Orleans) Modern Slavery Research Project (MSRP) and The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania to 13 cities across the United States and Canada to serve as external experts to study the prevalence and nature of human trafficking among young people experiencing homelessness. The result has led to one of the largest-ever data sets on human trafficking and exploitation experiences of youth facing homelessness.
Here are some of the key findings from the studies:
From MSRP’s study, of 641 young people interviewed:
- 19% were identified as survivors of some form of human trafficking
- 14% were survivors of sex trafficking
- 8% had been trafficked for other forced labor.
From The Field Center’s study, out of 270 young people interviewed:
- 20% had been sex or labor trafficked
- 17% were survivors of human trafficking
- 6% were survivors of labor trafficking.
2. Risk Factors for Human Trafficking Among Youth Facing Homelessness in New Jersey
In 2015 to 2017, Covenant House New Jersey, in partnership with Mount Sinai, conducted a separate longitudinal study of 344 youth experiencing homelessness who sought services at Covenant Houses in Atlantic City, Elizabeth, and Newark. The study explored factors that determine risk and protection for human trafficking among New Jersey youth facing homelessness.
The New Jersey study found the following:
- Young people facing homelessness who have a supportive adult in their life had lower odds of being trafficked.
- A history of having an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, indicative of having a learning disability or related challenge, was an unexpected factor significantly associated with a trafficking experience.
- Gender was not associated with a trafficking experience.
These and other findings from the research can be found in the peer-reviewed journal article by Chisolm-Straker, Makini, et al., “A Supportive Adult May Be the Difference in Homeless Youth Not Being Trafficked,” Children and Youth Services Review, vol. 91, 2018, pp. 115-120, doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2018.06.003.
3. Attitudes and Behaviors that Put Teenage Girls at Greater Risk of Sex Trafficking in Canada
In April 2018, Covenant House Toronto partnered with IPSOS Public Affairs to survey and interview teenage girls across Canada to better understand the attitudes and behaviors that place teens at risk for sex trafficking. The qualitative part of the research consisted of one-on-one interviews with sex trafficking survivors, their parents, and advocates. It also included online mini-groups with teenage girls, ages 12 to 16, and parents. The quantitative survey, which was informed by the qualitative study results, polled 501 girls between the ages of 12 and 16 in rural communities and urban centers across the country.
The Canada study found the following:
- Early teenage years are a critical age range in which to educate girls before their risk for human trafficking increases. Girls with greater familiarity with the term sex trafficking were more likely to take steps to ensure their safety. They were also more likely to be confident they would know if they were being “catfished,” that is, deceived by someone using a fictitious identity online.
- Education about sex trafficking and open dialogue between girls and their parents are important for reducing the risk that a girl will be trafficked for sex. Girls who report that their parents are aware of their online social media activity or feel that they can talk to their parents about anything expressed greater awareness of the risks of certain behaviors and greater aversion to engaging in many of those risky behaviors. Parents play a critical role in keeping their daughters safe from human traffickers.
“Global Report on Trafficking in Persons,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 2018
“Global Estimates of Modern Slavery,” International Organization of Labor, 2017
“I am Jane Doe,” a documentary by Mary Mazzio