Human Trafficking Prevention

The Human Trafficking Prevention goal is to support efforts to prevent and respond to human trafficking and exploitation of young people through multi-layered and collaborative approaches to prevention, training and survivor services needed to equip those most vulnerable  with skills and knowledge to help prevent them from becoming victims of human trafficking. 

Human Trafficking Prevention 

The Fund’s decision to include human trafficking prevention as a focus area was made in an effort to address what we saw as a critical and important need for coordination of public awareness and support services in a region that has become a hub for these devastating crimes against children and youth

The Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis, now Marillac Mission Fund, completed a study in November 2016 on human trafficking prevention in our region, particularly the prevention of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth (CSEC). The report is known as “Understanding Community Needs and Priorities for Preventing Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth: A Funder’s Framework for Addressing Prevention.”  The report findings revealed that preventing first-time sex trafficking is a critical undertaking, as well as helping youth who have been victimized to recover from their trauma, and to address the risk factors that create vulnerability in the first place.  All of these aspects of prevention are important and necessary to both empower youth and end trafficking.

As a result of this informative report, Marillac Mission Fund began meeting with other funders in the region and this led to the creation of the Missouri Collaborative Against Human Trafficking (MCAHT).  From 2017 to 2019, this funder collaborative supported ground-breaking research to develop an action plan aimed at eliminating Missouri's status as a top destination for labor and sex trafficking.  This work was completed in three waves: a comprehensive, statewide resource guide, a statewide needs assessment to identify current gaps in services, and a strategic plan that proposes solutions based on top needs, collective priorities, and current assets.  The needs assessment,  "Human Trafficking in Missouri and Metro East St. Louis: Provider Based Needs Assessment and Demographic Snapshot," provide insights into human trafficking from the perspective of those working with human trafficking survivors in the social, legal, and healthcare service sectors. It is expected that any organization planning to apply for a grant from Marillac Mission Fund in the Human Trafficking Prevention focus area will have reviewed this needs assessment before applying to ensure alignment with the findings of the study.

Statement of Need:

Definition: Human trafficking is a form of slavery involving the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act, or acts in which the victim is under the age of 18. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, it is estimated that human trafficking is a crime that generates $150 billion in profits per year.

Human trafficking is a hidden crime as victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of the traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement. Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They look for people who are vulnerable for a variety of reasons, including lack of strong support networks, have experienced violence in the past, are experiencing homelessness, or are marginalized by society. The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.

The focus of MMF grant-funded programs should demonstrate an increase in knowledge, skills and collaboration for prevention, and an increase in support and stability for high-risk youth and youth survivors. Projects can include the following:

Prevention Programming:   Prevention should be viewed across a spectrum of first-time prevention, intervention and survivor services to prevent first-time and re-entry, and a systems-based approach to tackling risk factors.  While both high-risk and lower-risk youth will benefit from prevention and awareness efforts, prevention for those youth at higher risk of trafficking should be a priority.  This includes a focus on addressing the key risk factors that create greater youth vulnerability to sex trafficking such as poverty, homelessness, family instability, racism, etc. 

Training & Education: Sex trafficking victims undergo significant trauma and victimization, so training is needed for social service and health care providers as well as law and order professionals on how to best engage them at the ground level.  Training and education for those who are the first point of contact with sex trafficking victims or potential victims will help ensure that trafficking cases are properly identified and managed, so that chances for a victim to receive necessary help and for a trafficker to be properly prosecuted are increased.  Training is needed to shift from treating a trafficked individual as a criminal to recognizing them as a victim as well as learn how to better interact and engage with young people. There is no one-size-fits-all training model.  Ideally, training should be relational in nature and customized to the specific group being trained.  This type of training has already occurred in several organizational departments within the health care and law enforcement sectors, but it needs to continue with stakeholder groups across the region in a consistent and ongoing manner.   

Survivor Services: Programs exclusively for sex trafficking survivors under the age of 25 are in demand, especially more bed space that is safe and immediately accessible for the youth including the LGBTQ individuals and males.  Services include securing mental health and psychiatric care for victims, particularly those with substance abuse issues.  Survivor services should incorporate promising practices for survivor intervention and recovery.  Promising practices for survivor services include: survivor-led, developed and/or informed programming, trauma-informed care, peer to peer support, culturally competent services and providers, survivor-specific services, listening to youth voices, and engaging with them respectfully.  Residential programming that includes many of the above promising practices has also shown greater success with survivor recovery than outpatient care.

All proposals should reflect an understanding of the following in the program design:

1.  Program reflects recommendations of the MMF-funded study known as "Human Trafficking in Missouri and Metro East St. Louis: Provider Based Needs Assessment and Demographic Snapshot." 

2. Program addresses prevention from an all-inclusive perspective, which should include primary, secondary and tertiary prevention with a more targeted focus on the highest-risk youth populations—African American girls, LGBTQ youth, homeless youth, Latinx youth, low-income youth, immigrant and refugee youth, youth aging out of foster care and in foster care, etc.

3. Programs that increase understanding of survivors as victims of trafficking rather than offenders, provide intervention and survivor services, strategically address prevention of trafficking and/or revictimization.

4. Address the systemic risk factors of sex trafficking as an important part of the prevention ecology (i.e., poverty, racism, homelessness, poor performing schools, among others).

5. Collaborate across stakeholder groups, particularly those who work directly with high-risk youth and youth survivor populations such as middle and high schools, to engage willing youth (survivors, at-risk, homeless, etc.) to share their experiences and insights regarding human trafficking and its prevention.  

6. Youth involvement  in the dialogue and development of trafficking prevention efforts, as well as in the intervention.