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 is a form of slavery involving the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. St. Louis and the bi-state area more broadly has one of the highest prevalences of human trafficking in the country. This is largely due to its central location and accessibility through the interstate highway system. Calls to the human trafficking hotline have steadily increased in both Missouri and Illinois between 2015 and 2020, and there is evidence that both cases and complaints of trafficking in Missouri are increasing despite a dip in cases nationally. Of the reported cases in Missouri, roughly 82% are sex trafficking and less than 5% are labor trafficking. People who lack strong support networks, have experienced violence in the past, are experiencing homelessness, or are otherwise marginalized in society are especially vulnerable to trafficking.

Understanding the Need  

In 2016, Marillac Mission Fund completed a study focused on prevention of human trafficking, and especially commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth (CSEC). This report revealed the need to focus on the following areas: preventing first time sex trafficking, helping youth who have been victimized to recover from their trauma, and addressing risk factors that create vulnerability in the first place. 

Following this initial report, MMF helped create the funder collaborative, Missouri Collaborative Against Human Trafficking (MCAHT), which funded a statewide needs assessment to identify current gaps in services. The assessment revealed the top five needs in the region are mental health services, including therapy, counseling, and support groups; transitional housing; shelters for adults; shelter for minors; and substance use services, including residential and detox programs.

Marillac Mission Fund’s Response

In an effort to address what we saw as a critical need for coordination of public awareness and support services in a region that has become a hub for human trafficking of children and youth, MMF has committed to funding the following three strategies: 

  • Prevention Programming consists of a systems-based approach to tackling risk factors. Prevention should be viewed across a spectrum of first-time prevention, intervention, and survivor services to prevent first-time exposure and re-entry.

  • Training & Education is essential in both understanding how to prevent trafficking and supporting victims in ways that are tailored to their specific needs. Being able to properly identify and manage cases increases the chances that a victim will receive necessary help and that a trafficker will be properly prosecuted. Training should also help to develop the understanding that those who have been trafficked are victims, not criminals.

  • Survivor Services include survivor-led, developed, and informed programming, trauma-informed care, peer to peer support, culturally competent services and providers, and survivor-specific services. Quality services are provided through 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. 

In summary, 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. We at MMF stand with survivors of human trafficking, seeking to not only support those individuals and their communities, but to prevent the further exploitation of individuals within our region.

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