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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

How can victim advocates and housing service providers respond to the needs of Native human trafficking survivors?

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

By Oyesola Oluwafunmilayo Ayeni, Policy & Research Analyst Consultant with the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

Native women have been on the receiving end of many injustices. These injustices include homelessness and various forms of physical and sexual violence. Native women experience high rates of homelessness. Native women also have the highest rate of domestic violence and rape of any group of women. To support Native survivors, we must understand the historical context of their experiences.

History of prostitutioni, sex trafficking, and homelessness among Native women

“Many of the personal issues, including familial dysfunction, substance use, addictions, health issues, and community violence, faced by Indigenous Peoples that act as contributors to homelessness can be directly linked to various types of historical trauma” – Indigenous Peoples, 2019

The crises of exploitation inflicted on Native women and tribesdates back over 500 years. These crises were part of the colonization of Indigenous people. Native women and girls experienced torture, as well as physical and sexual violence by colonizers. Native women and children were also bought and sold for sex and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking became a central component of the colonization of Indigenous people in Central and North America.

Colonization also disrupted how Indigenous people lived for thousands of years. The reservation system established through treaties removed Native people from their homeland. This removal displaced Native people to reserve settlements which led to chronic homelessness. Residential schooling and the child welfare system removed Native children from their families. The disruption of the family structure contributed to homelessness among Native people.

Homelessness and exploitation continue to be widespread among Native people.

What is the connection between homelessness and exploitation among Native women?

There is a relationship between homelessness and prostitution and the trafficking of Native women. Native women experience many disparities in education, income, poverty, and incarceration. These disparities prevent them from being able to live their lives as they would like. Instead, many Native women are victims of homelessness, sexual exploitation, and physical violence. Violence against Native women causes instability for them and their families. Violence is often a direct and indirect cause of homelessness and vice versa. Homeless Native women are vulnerable to all forms of sexual and physical violence. There is also a connection between prostitution, sex trafficking, and homelessness. One study found that 98% of prostituted and trafficked Native women experienced homelessness. Prostitution is not a choice for the women, but rather a cycle of entrapment. This is the result of many violent and coercive barriers. These barriers violate Native women's human rights. Native women experience persistent, intergenerational homelessness and the stereotype of being “prostitutes.” These discriminations entrap Native women and girls into prostitution and sex trafficking.

The webinar above discusses the history and present-day context of housing instability among the American Indian and Alaska Natives.

What can victim advocates and housing service providers do to support Native survivors?

Women exploited in trafficking are in our midst. We see them every day, yet they and their needs are invisible. As we engage with exploited women who identify their needs, our understanding increases. There is much to do to support Native survivors of human trafficking. Below are some recommendations for service providers.

Recommendations for Housing Services

  • Permanent Supportive Housing should be available for Native survivors. This should also include on-site optional services and childcare.
  • The participation of Native survivors in services should not be a condition to secure safe, accessible, and affordable housing.
  • Native women should receive housing services regardless of their involvement in prostitution.

Recommendations for other Advocacy and Support Services

  • Service providers should center cultural healing ways provided by medicine people and healers. The healers should be people known and acknowledged by Native communities. They should also be accessible and available.
  • Service providers should make legal resources (e.g., expungement) available and accessible. Help with child welfare issues affecting survivors should also be a priority.
  • Employment and relevant education resources should be accessible to Native survivors.
  • Informed resources should be available to survivors who are victims of torture. This is a critical piece in their healing journey.
  • Native women should receive services regardless of their involvement in prostitution.


Advocates and housing service providers can offer support to Native human trafficking survivors. Native survivors are the experts on their needs. We must listen and respond to the needs of Native survivors as they define them.

For more information:

Other Resources:

  • WEBINAR: The Nexus between Gender Based Violence and Housing Insecurity for American Indian and Alaska Native Survivors. For most survivors of sexual and domestic violence housing is an immediate and necessary need. For American Indian and Alaska Native Survivors the need is no different – but the additional barriers and complexities can sometimes feel insurmountable. In this webinar, presenters discuss American history’s impact in American Indian and Alaska Native housing instability and the findings from a group of experts from Indian country who work in the fields of gender-based violence and housing.
  • NRCDV Radio Episode 36: Policy & Advocacy in Action: Sex Trafficking of Native Women. This episode of Policy & Advocacy in Action explores the themes in the paper Colonization, Homelessness, and the Prostitution and Sex Trafficking of Native Women by Christine Stark and Eileen Hudon, which discusses human trafficking of Native women and girls, with particular attention to the historical context in the United States and the interconnection between trafficking and housing instability.
  • National Workgroup on Safe Housing for American Indian and Alaska Native Survivors of Gender-Based Violence: Lessons Learned. The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center and the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence convened a meeting in Phoenix, Arizona on June 4-5, 2019, to establish a National Workgroup on Safe Housing for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Survivors of Gender-Based Violence. This report details themes that emerged from the convening, lessons learned, and recommendations for increasing access to safe and affordable housing for AI/AN survivors of gender-based violence.


  • National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc. (NIWRC). NIWRC is a Native-led nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against Native women and children. The NIWRC provides national leadership in ending gender-based violence in tribal communities by lifting up the collective voices of grassroots advocates and offering culturally grounded resources, technical assistance and training, and policy development to strengthen tribal sovereignty.
  • The Alaska Native Women's Resource Center (AKNWRC). AKNWRC is dedicated to strengthening local, tribal government's responses through community organizing efforts advocating for the safety of women and children in their communities and homes, especially against domestic and sexual abuse and violence. 

iWhile we honor the value of using language that represents our diversity and the importance of breaking through stereotypes and binary categories, the term “prostitution” is retained in this publication to denote the inherently exploitative and violent nature of the experiences of Native survivors.