By: Dawn Hawkins, CEO
Members of the LGBTQ+ community are our family members, our colleagues, our friends, our partners and allies: they are those with whom we fight and for whom we fight.
Sexual Exploitation Disproportionately Impacts LGBTQ+ Individuals
As an organization committed to combating sexual abuse and exploitation, we recognize that vulnerability knows no boundaries and affects individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities. We firmly believe in the importance of supporting and protecting LGBTQ+ communities, especially when it comes to the increased risks they face in terms of sexual abuse and exploitation.
It is crucial that we come together as a society and stand united against the institutions that enable such heinous acts.
- Intersections of Vulnerability in the LGBTQ+ Community (+Resources)
- 10 Reasons to Oppose Decriminalization of Sex Buying, Pimping, and Brothel Keeping
- Addressing Misinformation About the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA)
Recognition of Past Harmful Activities
Over six decades, NCOSE has evolved tremendously, expanding its scope of work with a multitude of survivors, experts, and organizations across the world and cultures.
It is with deep regret that there were moments in our organization’s history prior to our leadership change in 2011, when remarks were made that were indeed anti-LGBTQ+, and our former namesake, Morality in Media (MIM), was associated with actions that starkly contrast with our current values.
As an organization, we demand acknowledgment and transparency by entities for past actions. In the same spirit, we acknowledge with regret past statements and actions around the LGBTQ+ community that were inconsistent with respecting human dignity.
- There have been assertions that our former name was associated with a campaign against Disney advocating that benefits for LGBTQ+ employees not be extended to their partners. We have not been able to identify record of this in our archives. However, if MIM was a part of this campaign, it starkly contradicted our values and stances, even back then. We want to make it clear that such a campaign goes against our current principles and beliefs.
- We found in our archives a press statement arguing that homosexuality is connected to crime. This article is one we utterly disavow, as it contradicts what Morality in Media represented even then. It certainly does not represent NCOSE now.
NCOSE does not endorse past statements made by employees in previous situations and requires all employees to embrace our commitment to serve, uplift, and respect all persons, including members of the LGBTQ+ community, in efforts to end sexual exploitation.
The core mission of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation is unwaveringly committed to preventing sexual abuse and exploitation of every person, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. We deeply appreciate our relationships with members of the LGBTQ+ community and have worked extensively with those who share our concerns about sexual abuse and exploitation, or who, tragically, have personally experienced such atrocities.
Transformation of NCOSE
It’s pivotal to note the transformation began with a change in mission and leadership in 2011. Since that time, our unwavering commitment to upholding the dignity of every individual, including the LGBTQ+ community, has become the cornerstone of our work.
Like the society in which we live, members of our staff, board, guest speakers at our events, and allies with whom we work, including those with lived experience, hold diverse personal opinions on matters of sexuality. Each is entitled by the Constitution of the United States to their personal views. That being said, we do not tolerate statements and actions by current employees that spread harmful misinformation and hate towards any particular group or individual. NCOSE works with a diverse coalition of allies from all different political, religious, and personal backgrounds, therefore NCOSE does not endorse the positions of other groups or individuals, and we require respect for all people, and do not tolerate derogatory or hateful comments, at our events or in our campaigns.
What unites our team, along with many advocates for human dignity across the globe, is our intense focus on holding accountable individuals and corporations who use their power and privilege to sexually abuse and exploit others.
Present-Day NCOSE and its Advocacy
We want to take this opportunity to be clear, NCOSE stands for equality and justice for all persons, including those in the LGTBQ+ community. We vehemently reject any hatred or bigotry towards any group including those in the LGTBQ+ community. We have the utmost concern for this population when it comes to sexual exploitation as they are often overlooked despite being disproportionally victimized.
Advocacy With and For the LGBTQ+ Community
In fact, our advocacy work recognizes the unfortunate reality that members of the LGBTQ+ community are disproportionately exploited in the sex trade. For example, a study of 270 homeless youth in Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Washington, DC found that participants who were sex trafficked were disproportionately LGBTQ+, and especially transgender. Further, a research report by the Urban Institute explained that societal rejection, economic instability, and homelessness often drive LGBTQ+ youth to trade sexual access to their own bodies in exchange for basic needs like shelter. More recently, in a study among 215 homeless young adults aged 18 to 25, more than one-third of the sample reported being sex trafficked, and of those, over half were LGBTQ. Within the sample, the likelihood of being LGBTQ and being a victim of sex trafficking was two times higher than for heterosexual young adults.
We view this as a severe violation of these individuals’ rights, not as a beneficial survival tactic. We strive to offer support, connections to services, and community for LGBTQ+ individuals, aiding them in their journey away from exploitation and towards empowerment.
NCOSE’s current work is rooted in a staunch opposition to all forms of sexual exploitation, a stance that some people mischaracterize as anti-LGBTQ+ due to misconceptions that commercialized sex or pornography are empowering or educational for those in the LGBTQ+ community. It is important to clarify that our opposition to the commercial sexual exploitation industry is by no means or in anyway anti-LGBTQ+, but rather, a defense of human dignity. NCOSE affirms that commercialized sex causes psychological and physical trauma and is the marketplace where sex trafficking thrives. The sex trade causes trauma and facilitates harm to all impacted by it, particularly marginalized communities. NCOSE emphasizes that pornography is not a suitable form of sexual education for any demographic. Treating it as such is especially harmful to the LGBTQ+ community. Mainstream pornography often depicts themes like sexual violence, coercion, incest, adult-youth exploitation, and racism. Normalizing these messages, particularly among youth who may have limited access to educational materials, poses a significant risk of internalization and harm.
Learn more about the research and survivor testimonies on these topics:
Let us move forward with renewed dedication and unity, eradicating the institutions that perpetuate abuse and exploitation. Join us in standing firm in our commitment to uphold the dignity of every individual, regardless of who they are or who they love. We invite you to join us in advocating for a world free from all forms of sexual exploitation.