Drugs and sex trafficking are often linked. One mother recently joined the chorus of sex trafficking survivor stories, sharing her experiences and how she overcame sexual abuse and addiction. Emily Brainich describes her story in the Deseret News.

Brainich explains that, as she prepared to run a 5K, she associated running with recovery. She lost her mother early in life due to a violent and unsolved crime. Before her death, her mother had drug and alcohol addiction issues. Brainich was sexually assaulted at a young age, raised by her father and continued to have dark secrets.

After a tumultuous childhood, Brainich moved out on her own at 18 years of age and began doing cocaine. She lived with a boyfriend who also did drugs and introduced her to stripping to make money. Stripping escalated into working as an escort, where she was routinely beaten by her boyfriend. She continued to fall in and out of abusive relationships, eventually learning in 2009 that she was pregnant. She continued sex work throughout her pregnancy, was arrested multiple times and became homeless with her young son. Abandoned and alone, she again turned to drugs.

Brainich’s son ended up in foster care and she realized that she needed to make different choices. Nine months later, she was well into recovery from drugs. Her care included counseling, addressing her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from childhood trauma and leaving drugs behind. Her running is a way of celebrating a new way of experiencing the streets of Utah – and a sober lifestyle.

What is Human Sex Trafficking?

The Polaris Project synthesizes statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline. It reports that 13% more cases of human trafficking were reported in the United States in 2017 than in 2016. The three primary kinds of trafficking are:

  1. Sex trafficking, which includes escort surfaces, residential and solicitation
  2. Sex and labor trafficking, which includes illegal massages, bars or strip clubs and other illegal actions
  3. Labor trafficking, which includes domestic work, agricultural work or people who beg

The data indicates that two of the highest risks for trafficking include substance use and mental health issues.

The United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking issued an Annual Report in 2019 that states that:

  • 8,759 cases of human trafficking were reported in 2018
  • The Department of Justice served a guilty verdict to 533 people in 2017 for human trafficking
  • A National Human Trafficking Hotline received 62,835 calls in 2017
  • Resources and referrals were provided for 10,615 human trafficking victims in 2018

Sex trafficking, as defined by this council, includes victimization of people even if they have consented to sexual transactions.

The Link Between Drug Abuse and Trafficking

American Medical Association Journal of Ethics explains that sex trafficking, sexual abuse and drug addiction are often connected. An article in the journal states that there are many reasons for this, including:

  • 66% of participants in a study cited in this article report that substance abuse led to them being the victim of trafficking
  • Survivors of trafficking reported that 84.3% used drugs throughout the experience
  • More than 50% of trafficking survivors reported using marijuana, cocaine and alcohol
  • Opioids have been identified as a coercion method for traffickers
  • 15% of people who had been trafficked met criteria for mental health disorders

Addiction can complicate the servile role of someone who has been trafficked or extend the indebtedness of someone victimized by sexual trafficking. Sex trafficking and drug abuse are both serious experiences that require legal and medical intervention.

If you or someone you know is being sexually exploited, the number to call is: 1(888) 373-7888. SMS texting can be sent to 233733. For drug and alcohol rehabilitation, The Recovery Village provides multiple resources to find a road to recovery.