Researchers at the University of South Florida are playing a role in helping sex-trafficking victims through a court program that offers housing, job training, counseling and other services. The researchers’ work could become a model for similar programs around the country.
The researchers, all from USF’s Trafficking in Persons—Risk to Resilience Research (TiP) Lab, are working with Sarasota-based nonprofit Selah Freedom to evaluate the organization’s Turn Your Life Around (TYLA) court diversion program for survivors of human trafficking and exploitation. Associate professor Dr. Fawn Ngo of the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus is leading the study, which involves researchers from the USF St. Petersburg and Tampa campuses and two graduate assistants and an undergraduate student, all from USF in Tampa. Selah Freedom and court officials in Sarasota have granted the researchers unique access to the TYLA program, enabling them to view the court’s diversionary proceedings live and interview the program’s participants later to understand how they became entrapped in the commercial sex industry, often for years.