We all recognize that human trafficking is a devastating ill in our society that destroys lives and preys on vulnerable people. But even within that word, “vulnerable,” there’s so much to unpack. What makes an individual – or a group – vulnerable to exploitation? More importantly, what can we do about it?

Last week, Disrupting Traffick held a Virtual Coffee and Conversation to tackle that question as it relates to exploitation and trauma within the LGBTQIA+ community. 

And because a conversation generally takes two, we were joined by a special guest presenter – Randy Hager – who is a licensed clinical health counselor, life coach, and consultant. He also happens to be my Dad, identifies as gay, and has dedicated much of his life and career to Trauma Healing in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Though it’s not something I generally lead with in conversation, I am someone who identifies with the LGBTQIA+ population. I also have over five years of experience working in human services. Between my personal and my professional experience, I lead this webinar to engage and educate others about the intersection between trauma experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community and the risks of exploitation.

Over 1.2 million LGBTQIA+ youths age 13 to 18 seriously consider suicide each year. That number jumps to 1.8 million when you increase that age range to 24. LGBTQIA+ youth are 120% more likely to report homelessness than cisgender youth.

Imagine missing out on formative education, basic nutrition, and access to healthcare and hygiene. Imagine experiencing constant harassment, violence. Imagine being told time and time again that you are less than or inferior because of who you are.

Now you’re imagining what it’s like to be vulnerable.

What we experience as children follows us into adulthood. The same stigma, harassment, discrimination and violence that generates this level of suicidal ideation and homelessness makes this community especially vulnerable. A disproportionately high percentage of LBGTQIA+ individuals experience horrific exploitation and human trafficking. 

And this isn’t rare, either. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Nebraska has the fourth highest human trafficking rate in 2020. No area is immune from this, which is why it’s going to take all of us to tackle this problem.

I will say that not everyone in the community experiences the hardships mentioned here. However we must acknowledge the disproportionally high percentage of individuals that do, and the vicarious trauma that is felt inherently by being a part of a minority community. 

This is a subject matter that demands our attention and care as a community. It demands understanding and action. 

But just as traffickers learn and adapt, those who seek justice and peace can adapt. No doubt we have a lot of work ahead of us but we also have a great deal of strength. 

Our strength is in our humanity, in our empathy, and in our diversity. We can and must do better; as service providers, as community members, as individuals. And that’s something we can take pride in.


Johannah Hager

Director of Operations, Disrupting Traffick – Omaha

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