This study is only the third research report published to date to explore sex trafficking in Hawai‘i. The lack of a general understanding of the scope and complexity of sex trafficking in Hawai‘i has allowed the victimization of Hawai‘i residents to continue.
In both this study and our previous research in Hawai‘i, sex trafficking victims have been identified in urban and rural areas, in hospitals and drug rehabilitation centers, youth attending school, and in juvenile and adult correctional settings.
This study of 363 participants in Hawai‘i, found nearly 100 sex trafficking victims.
The sex trafficking victims lived on five islands in Hawai‘i with the highest percentages being on Oahu (45.4%) followed by Maui (23.7%).
One out of every five sex trafficking victims identified in this study had been sex trafficked as a child.
The victims age at first sex trafficking experience ranged from four to 55 years-old. If they were first sex trafficked as a child, their average age was 11.3 years old.
Sixty-four percent of the sex trafficking victims identified as being all or some Native Hawaiian.
23 percent of the sex trafficking victims were male. Male victims were more likely to report being sex trafficked for drugs than female victims.
Nearly a quarter of the sex trafficking victims were sex trafficked by a family member (parent, guardian, sibling, uncle, grandfather).
The sex trafficking victims were 2.6 times more likely to have been in special education classes. [emphasis added]
The most common reason identified by the sex trafficking victims for their being forced or coerced to exchanging sex was for drugs (26.8%), followed by money (24.7%), and a place to stay (24.7%)
More than half (55.7%) of the sex trafficking victims also identified as labor trafficking victims.
The sex trafficking victims reported high rates of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) including family violence and neglect, childhood sexual abuse, domestic and dating violence, having a mental health diagnosis, struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, and being homeless.
The sex trafficking victims were:
- 2.5 times more likely to report having witnessed domestic violence between their parents.
- Three times more likely to report having experienced physical abuse.
- Three times more likely to report having experienced emotional abuse.
- 2.5 times more likely to report having run away before the age of 18 years old.
The sex trafficking victims described being in contact with many of Hawai‘i's institutions of care - in some cases while they were being sex trafficked - including schools, hospitals, mental health providers, criminal justice, and child welfare services. [emphasis added]
The last point should be examined carefully. The organizations in place to help protect these children are not doing their jobs.
Also of note is that this study is based upon questionnaires given to people already engaged with social services, so the true numbers must be higher than in this study.