Commercial Sexual Exploitation


NoVo’s core mission to end all forms of violence against girls and women includes the violence of the sex trade. This work centers the perspectives of the most marginalized girls and women, including girls and women of color, trans, immigrant and Indigenous girls and women.

For these girls and women, life is often marked by moments when systems fail them and their communities. And for too many, these failures lead to greater vulnerability to violence—including the violence of sexual exploitation.

The Life Story Grants

In 2020, the NoVo Foundation announced the recipients of The Life Story Grants, a $10 million, three-year investment in survivor-centered programs in the U.S. that open exit ramps from the sex trade while closing on-ramps for the most marginalized individuals.

Our work here is guided by the insights of survivors who were exposed to harm in school, foster care, housing, health care, law enforcement and other systems, who experienced intergenerational violence and trauma, and whose paths led to sexual exploitation. These lived experiences reveal opportunities for change, embedded across all social justice work: close down system-driven, lifelong on-ramps to exploitation while opening up exit ramps that enable survivors to leave. Learn more at The Life Story: Moments of Change.)

Survivors also tell us about the lasting psychological harm inflicted upon girls and women in the sex trade. This kind of trauma can’t be regulated away—it is inherent to the sex trade itself. That’s why we support policies that aim to shrink the sex trade, so that one day, no one is subjected to that trauma. While we never support criminalizing those sold for sex, we believe in accountability for those who buy and sell others for sex, exposing them to this lasting harm.


  • Promote the organizing and grassroots mobilization of those in the sex trade who are creating alternatives and pathways for marginalized girls and women, so that they themselves can lead efforts to create lasting change;
  • Shift social and cultural norms by raising awareness about the harms and realities of commercial sexual exploitation;
  • Foster long-term solutions for marginalized girls and women by focusing on the specific systems and inequalities that shape trajectories into exploitation;
  • Shape policy and legal frameworks to ensure anyone selling or sold for sex is decriminalized, that economic and educational opportunities for those vulnerable to entering or already within commercial sexual exploitation are available, and that anyone purchasing sex or profiting from sexual exploitation is held accountable; and
  • Seek cross-cutting efforts across all of the foundation’s work to address root causes of inequity, establish economic justice, uphold the rights of Indigenous communities and girls and women of color, and end gender-based violence.

This is work that weaves through systems and stretches across life-stages. When we connect the dots between knowledge, actions, policies and intersecting systems, we start to see new possibilities to create a better world for all girls and women.