A study released this week by the University of Louisville finds that 40 percent of homeless youth in Louisville and southern Indiana have been victims of sex trafficking.
Researchers studied homeless youth, ages 12 to 25, for a two-week period last October to understand the scope of sex trafficking in the Kentuckiana region. Respondents said they were victimized mostly in exchange for money or lodging.
Professor Jennifer Middleton teaches social work at U-of-L and helped oversee the research. She told WKU Public Radio that the number of sex trafficking victims was higher than expected.
"As far as the number of homeless youth being sex-trafficked in our community, I think this is a call to action to us in our communities to enhance education, awareness building, and training that we're doing on human trafficking."
Youth who reported being sex-trafficked were more likely to be drug-addicted, diagnosed with mental health issues, and participate in self-harming, including suicide attempts.
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear says the study confirms a trend that investigators in his Cyber Crimes Unit are seeing-the use of technology in abuse.
Smartphones are a common denominator in a majority of sex-trafficking cases. Backpage.com, Facebook, and Snapchat are most commonly used to recruit victims and sell them to buyers.