When she was 13, after her older brother raped her, Danielle started running away from home. Actually, she didn’t really have a home at the time; she lived with her mother and siblings in an abandoned house. After her mother went to prison for criminal trespassing, Danielle went into foster care in New Jersey; she bounced from treatment program to treatment program. Danielle later tried to reunite with her mother who had moved to another state, but her mother kicked her out after only two days. At age 19, believing she didn’t have other options and now stuck in an unfamiliar state, Danielle went to live with a man she didn’t know very well. He let her stay if she had sex with him and his roommate. There were other girls living in the house too, and she saw them get hit if they tried to leave. Eventually, she got up the courage to leave; she returned to New Jersey and became homeless.
Human trafficking often goes by many names including “modern day slavery.” The United States Trafficking Victim Protection Act define human trafficking as:
the recruitment, harboring, transportation, obtaining and/or provision
of a person or persons, by the use of force, fraud, and/or coercion, for
the purpose(s) of labor and/or sexual exploitation.
If the victimized is under the age of 18 years and engaged in commercial sexual activity (regardless of third party involvement), sex trafficking has occurred. In the U.S., labor trafficking can take many forms and occur in legal fields, like the hospitality industry, as well as illicit industries, like drug trafficking.
Covenant House New Jersey
Is the Largest Provider of Services to
Youth Survivors of Human Trafficking in NJ
Since we began identifying human trafficking experiences among homeless youth in late 2015, we have served over 80 survivors. The prevalence of human trafficking among the homeless youth population is increasing. In 2018 alone, we identified and served 35 new survivors of human trafficking.
When we began our anti-human trafficking work in late 2015, we recognized the lack of consensus among providers about how to identify and serve human trafficking survivors. We committed to creating evidence-based approaches that would serve as a model for service providers in NJ and beyond.
Identifying trafficking victims is a challenging process, due to many factors, including the extreme trauma victims face. But identifying and providing services to victims as soon as possible is the only way to start the healing process for the inhuman terror these young people have experienced.
Covenant House NJ and researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital developed and scientifically validated the first short trafficking screening tool, Quick Youth Indicators for Trafficking (QYIT). The four-question tool can be used by non-expert staff to evaluate for a lifetime trafficking experience among homeless youth served.
QYIT, and the research supporting it, can be found here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2018.12.014
Youth who screen positive on the QYIT are immediately referred to the in-house licensed clinical social workers and legal experts for a full trafficking assessment. During these assessments, expert staff determines whether the youth has been sex trafficked, labor trafficked, or was subjected to some other form of exploitation (such as survival sex or labor exploitation).
Youth survivors of trafficking are counseled on options for treatment of their trauma, including on-site individual and group therapy and access to our Peace Room. We also offer no-cost access to off-site specialized services provided by Sanar Wellness in Newark, such as EMDR, restorative yoga, and other treatment modalities proven to treat severe trauma.
Youth survivors of trafficking are also offered legal advice and representation to pursue legal remedies. Options include reporting to law enforcement and accessing victim support services. Our lawyers will also represent survivors in legal matters related to their trafficking experiences, including immigration, family, and vacatur or expungement of prior records.
You can learn more about Covenant House NJ’s groundbreaking research and contribution to best practices in anti-human trafficking work in.
Human Trafficking study, published by Covenant House New Jersey:
Recognizing Human Trafficking Among Homeless Youth
CHNJ Human Trafficking article, published in the Child and Youth Services Review 91:
A Supportive Adult May Be the Difference in Homeless Youth Not Being Trafficked
CHNJ Human Trafficking article, published in the Child and Youth Services Review 98:
Screening for Human Trafficking Among Homeless Young Adults
Are you a youth in need of help?