This week, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is starting a three-year, $600,000 research project to interview human trafficking victims ages 18 to 24.
Alexis Kennedy is a criminal justice professor at UNLV and will be conducting the interview. She says when victims are identified, they need an extensive web of services even after they age out of the system, including counseling, housing, and mentors.
"You can't live in the traumatic circumstance of being a trafficking victim and then, the second you turn 18, you're a healthy, functioning adult," says Kennedy. "
So, to then say, 'All right, you're 18, go get a straight job, stay out of trouble, don't do anything illegal;' they don't have the skills they need; they don't have the emotional support that they need."
Kennedy says that law enforcement agencies, schools, families and child protective services are working together to find at-risk kids before their lives take a dangerous turn. But the goal of her research project is to find out where the state system could have done a better job helping victims escape.
Nevada is one of the 10 worst states for human trafficking and experts blame it on the state's multi-billion-dollar sex trade, which in some cases draws children into prostitution.