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Research group identifies, collects data on victims of human trafficking in New Orleans

Loyola press release - March 11, 2015

Nearly a year after releasing the first-ever report on the issue of human trafficking in the New Orleans metro area, a research group at Loyola University New Orleans has released a second report that includes data showing that New Orleans area homeless youth are, indeed, at great risk.

The Modern Slavery Research Project at Loyola, with the support of the New Orleans Human Trafficking Work Group, released "Trafficking and Exploitative Labor Among Homeless Youth in New Orleans," a report compiled following a series of interviews with homeless youth at Covenant House, a haven for homeless and at-risk youth for more than 25 years. The report was authored by Loyola assistant professors Laura Murphy, Ph.D.; Rae Taylor, Ph.D.; and Christian Bolden, Ph.D., and funded through a Marquette Fellowship and Faculty Research Grant. View the report here.

The Global Slavery Index estimates that approximately 60,000 people are currently suffering under conditions of forced labor in the U.S. But despite talk of New Orleans being identified as a potential target area for human trafficking, no data had been collected in the New Orleans area prior to this year. During the course of this study, 99 at-risk youths aged 16-23 were interviewed through Covenant House. The study found that:

  • 14 percent of the respondents were identified as victims of some form of trafficking, following the legal definition outlined by the 2000 U.S. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.
  • 11 percent of the total population had been trafficked for sex; 5 percent for other forced labor. (Two respondents were trafficked for both sex and labor.).
  • Based on the number of youth aged 16-23 that Covenant House New Orleans cares for over the course of a year (approximately 615), the findings indicate that approximately 86 residents a year are likely to be victims of human trafficking.

"Ongoing research about trafficking in New Orleans provides the foundation for developing appropriate and effective programs that make escape possible for victims and ultimately makes our citizenry more resilient against traffickers," Murphy said. "We hope that this report, which highlights the voices of survivors of trafficking in our own city, will support and inform the work local service providers are already doing to help survivors. This report reflects Loyola's continuing commitment to provide the research on human trafficking that service providers, legislators, and law enforcement need to better serve survivors of modern slavery."

In addition to identifying and counting victims of human trafficking, the research helps set forth recommendations for survivors. The "Make Escape Possible" campaign was launched last year, which included special training sessions for workers at area hospitals to help identify victims. Additional recommendations include:

  • Increase the number of beds and space available for homeless youth involved in the sex trade.
  • Increase the availability of specialized services for victims of sex trafficking, including counseling services.
  • Increase work opportunities and job skills training for young adults.
  • Increase attention to male youth who engage in trading sex.
  • Address the problem of "aging out" of foster care and legal protections.
  • Increase awareness of Louisiana's new law (HB 1025) to vacate convictions of trafficking victims.
  • Fund and require law enforcement training for identification of victims of trafficking.

"They are good and brave kids who sadly have been victims of abuse, violence and trauma," said Jim Kelly, executive director of Covenant House New Orleans. "Based on the Loyola study, Covenant House plans to significantly expand and enhance our services for survivors of sexual trafficking. Together with our community partners, we are 100 percent committed to eradicating the sexual slavery of our children here in Louisiana."