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National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month: Helping youth survivors reclaim their lives

“Human trafficking is occurring in our schools, neighborhoods and communities. Each and every one of us needs to be aware of the problem so we can recognize and address it.”
– Devereux Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical/Medical Officer Yolanda Graham, M.D.

Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has reported nearly 74,000 cases of human trafficking in the U.S. In 2020 alone, the hotline reported more than 10,500 cases.

During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health is highlighting the urgent need to bring an end to these horrific crimes, empower survivors to regain control of their lives and support individuals on their path to recovery.

“It is disheartening to hear when people say this is a ‘their’ problem when, in reality, it is an ‘our’ problem, because it is happening in cities and towns across the U.S.,” said Graham, who is widely recognized throughout the field as a leading expert in the treatment of sexually exploited children. “Today, child sex trafficking recruitment typically occurs over the internet, which means if youth have a smartphone, tablet or computer, and have access to the internet, they are at risk. That is why educating children and families about the dangers of child sex trafficking is so critical.”

Listen as Graham discusses human trafficking and Devereux’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children program on Radio.com’s Special Edition podcast.

In addition to the hotline statistics, Shared Hope International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing an end to sex trafficking, recently issued its 2022 Report Cards on Child and Youth Sex Trafficking with 37 states receiving failing grades. The report cards graded states on how well they protect and provide services for youth survivors of sex trafficking. Access Shared Hope International’s report cards to view scores from each state.

Who is most vulnerable?

According to the Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline, online recruitment for sex and labor trafficking increased 22% in 2020. Most notably, Polaris found a 125% increase in reports of recruitment on Facebook over 2019, and a 95% increase in reports of recruitment on Instagram.

Polaris states individuals may be more susceptible to human trafficking if they:

  • Have an unstable living situation
  • Have a history of domestic violence or sexual abuse
  • Struggle with substance use disorder or have a caregiver or family member who struggles with substance use disorder
  • Are runaways or are involved in the juvenile justice or foster care systems
  • Are LGBTQ
  • Are immigrants or migrants
  • Are facing financial hardship

Devereux’s CSEC program

Devereux’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) program provides comprehensive treatment for children and adolescents who have experienced emotional, physical or sexual trauma as a result of commercial sexual exploitation. Services, offered in residential and outpatient settings, are available in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Note: Florida also provides treatment for adults in outpatient settings.

“We want to help survivors heal, and provide them with the tools they need to thrive,” shared Graham, who developed and launched Devereux’s CSEC program in 2012. “We also want to encourage parents and caregivers to monitor your child’s internet usage, talk to them about their friends and stay involved. We all must be responsible for protecting the kids in our communities.”

Graham notes there are signs that a child or adolescent may be a victim of sex trafficking:

  • Are involved in controlling or dominating relationships – express excessive concern about displeasing their partner
  • Have unexplained bruises or signs of trauma
  • Have tattoos or branding
  • Have a sexually explicit online profile
  • Go on unexplained shopping trips, spend large amounts of money
  • Are repeatedly absent from school
  • Engage in substance use

How to report possible trafficking

If you, or someone you know, needs immediate help, please call 911.

If you believe you may have information regarding a trafficking situation, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline through one of the following methods:

  • Call 1 (888) 373-7888.
  • Text 233733.
  • Chat with a hotline advocate at www.humantraffickinghotline.org/chat.
  • Submit an anonymous tip online, using this form.

Learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.


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