• July/August 2015
  • Vol. 16, No. 6

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Survival Sex Among Youth in New York

The Urban Institute recently released a research report detailing the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth; young men who have sex with men (YMSM); and young women who have sex with women (YWSW) who were currently engaged in the commercial sex trade in New York City. These interviews with almost 300 youth and young adults bring to the forefront the variety of different circumstances, origins, issues, concerns, and realities of their lives. The report shares findings in several sections addressing particular topics/questions surrounding youth involvement in survival sex, including:

  • What are the characteristics of the LGBTQ youth, YMSM, and YWSW involved?
  • What are the characteristics of the commercial sex market?
  • What do youth earn and how do they spend it?
  • How many youth are involved with exploiters?
  • What are youth perceptions of engaging in survival sex?

The research reinforces previous findings that LGBTQ youths' past experiences are driving factors for their current situations, and that LGBTQ youth often experience abuse and discrimination by law enforcement and/or program and shelter staff. Researchers also found that the experiences of youth engaged in survival sex are not static. Youth start and stop engaging in survival sex and also may be involved with—and later leave—an exploiter, and vice versa.

The report provides several policy and practice recommendations that social services and child welfare professionals can incorporate into their practices and organizations. The recommendations for policy changes and practice pull from the varied experiences of the interviewees and take into consideration the underlying themes that occurred throughout all of their experiences. Recommendations focus on creating safe spaces for these youth, making services more tailorable and sensitive to the diverse needs of this group through staff training, and increasing awareness of and access to services.

Access the Urban Institute's research report, Surviving the Streets of New York: Experiences of LGBTQ Youth, YSMS, and YWSW Engaged in Survival Sex, at http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/alfresco/publication-pdfs/2000119-Surviving-the-Streets-of-New-York.pdf (887 KB).

Related Items

To access a webpage from the Centers for Disease Control on preventing sex trafficking, see this article in the current issue of CBX. Sexual exploitation of children and youth and human trafficking issues have also been featured in the following CBX articles and issues:


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