Twenty-five percent of nearly 100 individuals identified as sex trafficking victims in Hawaii were trafficked by a family member, according to a new study.
The “Sex Trafficking in Hawaii 2019” report released Tuesday is the third segment of a multipart study on sex trafficking by the Arizona State University Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research and the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women.
Though the findings are “disgusting and reprehensible,” it is not a surprise, said Kevin Takata, supervising attorney general of the Criminal Justice Division of the state Department of the Attorney General.
”It just confirms what we know,” Takata said of victims either being trafficked by a family member or deceived by someone whom they trust and love.
The report dispels the notion that a trafficker is a stranger who lurks in the shadows, he said. “Quite often it’s a person who they believe is a trusted person they love and a person that they are in a relationship with.”
Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of the ASU Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, who co-authored the study, said nearly a third of the victims reported having a family member who had also been sexually exploited.
Twenty-three percent reported they were children when they were first trafficked. Of those victims, the average age was 11 when first trafficked. Karen Tan, president and chief executive officer of Child and Family Service, said she was stunned by the findings, noting the national average age of a trafficked child is 14.
Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women and co-author of the report, said she hopes the study will help shed light and spur action by lawmakers, law enforcement and the community to tackle the issue.
“The sheer numbers provided irrefutable and mounting evidence that sex trafficking is a systemic problem and occurring at scale,” she said.
The first part of the report was released in 2018 and focused on online sex buyers, and the second segment, released last year, discussed 22 cases of sex trafficking victims.
According to the report’s co-authors, the latest study is the largest study group to date on sex trafficking in Hawaii.
The study was conducted by Child and Family Service over a three-month period in 2019 involving 363 participants receiving social services from the organization on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii island, Kauai and Molokai who were given a six-page survey. Of those participants, 97 individuals were identified as sex trafficking victims.
The survey was developed by the ASU School of Social Work Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research and funded by the Kaimas Foundation.
Sex trafficking, as defined under federal law, is “a commercial act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”
A trafficker is “a person or persons who use force, fraud or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation.”
Of the 97 sex trafficking victims identified in the study, 75% of the participants were female, 23% were male, 1% was transgender and 1% was gender nonconforming.
Approximately 25% of the sex trafficking victims were first trafficked by a family member, 24.7% by a friend and 24.7% by a boyfriend.
Prior to Tuesday’s release of the report, Tan, of Child and Family Service, discussed key findings with community leaders that prompted lawmakers to introduce House Bill 2062.
The legislation seeks to establish a statewide coordinator, program and steering committee within the Department of Human Services to address the sexual exploitation of children.
The committee would be required to provide annual reports to the Legislature. The bill also would establish a multidisciplinary team in each county to immediately respond to cases of sexually exploited children.
Roe-Sepowitz and Jabola-Carolus are working on a fourth study that will involve more social service organizations and community partners across the state tofurther research the issue.
The study released Tuesday was limited to one social service provider, and the findings were so startling that organizers felt it was necessary to expand their research on a bigger scale, Jabola-Carolus said.
The fourth report on sex trafficking is slated to be released in the fall.
>> If you are a victim of or suspect any sex trafficking, call 911 immediately.
>> If you are worried about someone at risk, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.
>> To report child trafficking, call the state Department of Human Services Child Trafficking (Child Welfare Services) Hotline at 832-1999 on Oahu or 888-398-1188 on the neighbor islands.
Of the 97 individuals identified as sex trafficking victims in the Sex Trafficking in Hawaii 2019 study:
>> Ages of victims’ first sex trafficking experience ranged from 4 to 55 with an overall average age of first sex trafficking experience at 21.
>> Twenty-three percent reported they were younger than 18 when they were first trafficked. Of the victims first trafficked as a minor, the average age was 11.
>> Sixty-four percent of victims identified as being of Native Hawaiian descent.
Final Report Sex Trafficking in Hawaii Part III 01092020 by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd