Great strides are being made toward bringing equality and understanding of the LBGTQ community; however, strong societal discrimination still remains, particularly in the area of victim identification and service provision. Various studies have shown that LGBTQ individuals are more likely to be bullied by their peers, ostracized by their communities, or be vulnerable to human trafficking. According to the Family and Youth Services Bureau within the Administration of Children and Families at HHS, LGBTQ youth account for up to 40 percentof the runaway and homeless youth population. Once living on the street, the vulnerability to human trafficking can increase significantly.
Like other populations, LGBTQ individuals who are trafficked have specific needs that must be addressed. It is important for service providers to understand their experience of violence and trauma, to understand the specific fears of rejection and discrimination, to educate all task force members about LGBTQ communities, and to ensure that they are treated with sensitivity and respect by providing training and consultations with members across the task force.
Below are some key considerations when working with LGBTQ victims:
Keep in mind victims may not immediately appear to be LGBTQ or initially self-identify. If a victim identifies as LGBTQ, note that this detail may come out over time. Victims may feel the crime is punishment for their sexual orientation or that they were targeted because they are gay. They may also worry that the trafficking affected their sexual orientation. This fear may lead to withdrawal from the community and development of self-loathing related to their sexual orientation. If you suspect this may be a dynamic for a victim, allow them time to feel safe and comfortable disclosing these issues.
Demonstrate that the task force is LGBTQ-victim friendly. Task force members should be committed to providing the best possible services to all victims and survivors regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation. It is important to have a statement that explicitly states that all survivors have access to services, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. Task force service providers should consider hanging posters or materials in their offices that indicate that they are LGBTQ friendly.
OVC TTAC offers training on Serving LGBTQ Survivors of Violence. Topics include LGBTQ specific programs, barriers for LGBTQ people accessing services, how to serve survivors, action planning, accountability and resources.
Identify appropriate services and housing placement. It is critical to provide age-appropriate and culturally competent care for heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals.
Identify peer-to-peer support programs. In addition to utilizing a traditional clinical approach to trauma treatment, identify client-centered peer counseling that can help address the social, political, and economic contexts of LGBTQ client difficulties. These peer-to-peer programs often combine alternative trauma treatments, such as art therapy, which are proven to be very effective. Learn more in Section 4.4 on Mental Health Needs.