Nav: Home

Can sex trafficking be prevented?

September 16, 2019

(BOSTON) -- The high-profile case of Jeffrey Epstein has shined a light on the reality that minors are being commercially sexually exploited, and that sexual exploitation can happen in any neighborhood, city, state, or country.

But a new study conducted by researchers at Boston University School of Public Health and Northeastern University, funded by the National Institute of Justice, says there may be a way to prevent this sex trafficking. The study is the first to evaluate the effectiveness of a child CSE prevention program in the US.

Published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, the study found that young teenagers who completed the Boston-based My Life My Choice Exploitation Prevention Curriculum showed signs of being less at risk for commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) afterward, including reporting half as many episodes of sexually explicit behavior. They were also 24 percent less likely to have experienced dating abuse, and 40 percent more likely to give CSE-related information and help to their friends.

"What is so exciting about the My Life My Choice model is that they are bringing education and support to girls who are believed to be at high risk before they are exploited," said Emily Rothman, professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, and corresponding author of the study.

The My Life My Choice Prevention Groups work to prevent harm and connect young people who are at risk with supportive services, said Amy Farrell, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and a co-author of the study.

"As communities increasingly seek strategies to meet the needs of young people who are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation, it is critical to have models to guide these responses that have been tested empirically," Farrell said. "The model has been recognized nationally as a best practice and we now have evidence to support the idea that is has a positive impact."

My Life My Choice is a survivor-led pioneer program fighting to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Trained facilitators run MLMC Prevention Groups in 33 states and Canada. Child protection workers, teachers, social workers, juvenile probation officers, and others refer young people who might be at particularly high risk to an MLMC Prevention Group (groups are restricted to young people who identify as female and/or were assigned female at birth). Previous research has identified child CSE risk factors including neglect and abuse, involvement with the child welfare system, substance use, running away from home, being homeless (and particularly being homeless and LGBTQ), and having a lack of family support and education/employment opportunities.

"Our model is unique because it has been informed, created and delivered by survivors of the commercial sex industry," said Lisa Goldblatt Grace, co-founder and Executive Director of My Life My Choice. "We have paired this authentic, powerful perspective with public health innovation to develop our curriculum. We are thrilled to see this evaluation reflect what we experience every day: prevention can make a difference."

In the 10-week MLMC curriculum, group facilitators (usually a clinician and/or a CSE survivor) provide information designed to increase participants' knowledge about the commercial sex industry and individuals who sexually exploit others and shift their attitudes about the commercial sex industry. The curriculum also acknowledges barriers to making behavioral and safety-oriented changes, and teaches participants about risk factors for CSE, as well as helping participants develop media literacy skills and build self-esteem, resilience, and personal empowerment. Each participant keeps a journal during the curriculum and shares it only with the facilitator, giving the facilitator an opportunity to adapt the curriculum and giving participants a way to privately communicate possible threats to their safety and/or risky behavior.

The group participants assess their own vulnerability to exploitation, and the curriculum also encourages them to share what they have learned with other young people who may be at risk.

For the study, Rothman and her colleagues focused on about 300 participants in

My Life My Choice groups in Boston, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Florida, most of them around 14 years old. These participants filled out a survey before their first group, then responded to the same questions when they completed the curriculum and three months later. The surveys collected information about the demographics and lived experiences of the participants. They also measured behavior change and shifts in knowledge and attitudes about CSE and its harmful impact on youth (including questions about the recruitment tactics that pimps use, myths/facts about the commercial sex industry, healthy relationships, and drug and alcohol use as it pertains to CSE).

Both immediately after the curriculum and three months later, the researchers found that the participants reported half as many episodes of sexually explicit and potentially CSE-related behavior than they had before the curriculum. These behaviors ranged from taking naked selfies to exchanging sex for money, food, a place to stay, drugs, gifts, or favors.

At the three-month follow up, participants were two times less likely to report dating abuse victimization than before the curriculum. They also demonstrated increased knowledge and awareness of CSE and its harms and 100% of youth gave CSE-related help to a friend.

My Life My Choice's Survivor Mentoring model was also studied. For more information, including results of both parts of this study, visit http://www.mylifemychoice.org.
-end-
About Boston University School of Public Health

Founded in 1976, the Boston University School of Public Health is one of the top five ranked private schools of public health in the world. It offers master's- and doctoral-level education in public health. The faculty in six departments conduct policy-changing public health research around the world, with the mission of improving the health of populations--especially the disadvantaged, underserved, and vulnerable--locally and globally.

About My Life My Choice

By harnessing the strength of the collective voices of survivors, My Life My Choice empowers vulnerable children to join the movement to end commercial sexual exploitation. For more information, go to http://www.mylifemychoice.org.

Boston University School of Medicine

Related Public Health Articles:

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.
BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.
The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.
Bloomberg American Health Initiative releases special public health reports supplement
With US life expectancy now on the decline for two consecutive years, the Bloomberg American Health Initiative is releasing a supplement to Public Health Reports, the scholarly journal of the US Surgeon General.
Data does the heavy lifting: Encouraging new public health approaches to promote the health benefits of muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE)
According to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, almost 75 percent of US adults do not comply with public health guidelines recommending two or more muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE) sessions a week, with nearly 60 percent of the population doing no MSE at all.
The Lancet Public Health: Moderate carbohydrate intake may be best for health
Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fats from plant sources associated with lower risk of mortality compared to those that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fat from animal sources.
Mass. public safety, public health agencies collaborate to address the opioid epidemic
A new study shows that public health and public safety agencies established local, collaborative programs in Massachusetts to connect overdose survivors and their personal networks with addiction treatment, harm reduction, and other community support services following a non-fatal overdose.
More Public Health News and Public Health Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.