Youth Experiences Survey: Exploring the Sex Trafficking Experiences of Louisville’s At-Risk Adolescents and Young Adults

The UofL Human Trafficking Research Initiative, developed in 2015, is an interdisciplinary, community-engaged research partnership that includes faculty and graduate students from the University of Louisville, made up of the Kent School of Social Work, the Department of Criminal Justice, the Speed School of Engineering, the School of Medicine, and the Brandeis School of Law. The goal of the Initiative is to be a central source of research on human trafficking to inform the decisions made by those who contact victims, survivors, and perpetrators of human trafficking including law enforcement, prosecutors, educators, medical services, and social services.

How are victims identified?

One of the first aims of the Initiative is to work with community partners to more
effectively identify victims of sex trafficking in our community. It can be difficult to identify victims due to general lack of public awareness, as well as a lack of awareness, or reluctance, of many exploited children to identify themselves as victims. In order to address these challenges and provide targeted services, the Initiative is launching a sex
trafficking prevalence study of youth and young adults who are most at-risk in our
community.

What is the YES study?

Phase 1 of the YES study is currently launching in city of Louisville. The proposed study is based on Arizona’s successful YES prevalence study, which has been updated to include Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) questions. The Kentucky YES study will be conducted in three phases to include homelessness/runaway youth, justice-involved youth, and child welfare-involved. Youth and young adults aged 12-25 will be invited to complete the 10-minute survey, which asks questions about drug/alcohol use, family history, childhood trauma, mental and medical diagnoses, sexual exploitation, and service use. Participants will receive a $5 gift card and a resource guide as part of their participation in the study.

Why initiate this type of study?

The purpose of the study is to determine the prevalence of sex trafficking among youth and young adults in Kentucky and southern Indiana. Preliminary research obtained from
Arizona’s YES (Youth Experiences Survey) found of those surveyed, 35% of homeless
young adults identified as being a sex trafficking victim, with LGBTQ young adults
reporting higher rates of sex trafficking versus non-LGBTQ young adults.

The data from the Kentucky YES study will be published and shared statewide, to assist with the development of targeted, trauma-informed programs, to aid in the development of funding opportunities (e.g., collaborative grant proposals), and to highlight the prevalence of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of our most vulnerable youth populations.

How can you help?

If you are an organization that serves at-risk young people in the greater Louisville
community, and you are interested in being a potential survey site, please contact:

Dr. Jennifer Middleton
Co-Director of the UofL HTRI
jennifer.s.middleton@gmail.com
Cell: 303-648-1825