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Measuring Sex Trafficking: A National-Level Victimization Survey of an at-Risk Sample
Justice Quarterly  (IF4.717),  Pub Date : 2021-06-18, DOI: 10.1080/07418825.2021.1909646
Teresa C. Kulig


The current study administered a self-report survey with behaviorally specific questions to a stratified sample of non-college educated women, aged 18 to 29, in the general population (N = 996). Notably, the women were classified as being trafficked as adults only (3.8%), minors only (9.6%), or as both adults and minors (9.3%) using the federal legal definition. More than 1 in 5 (22.7%) women in the sample met the criteria for sex trafficking victimization at some point in their lives. However, only 39.6% of the respondents who experienced trafficking as an adult reported these events to police—further contributing to the “hidden figure” of crime. Guided by victimological theories, vulnerabilities, individual characteristics, and lifestyle factors increased the odds of being trafficked but varied depending on the type of exploitation. The implications of these findings are reviewed, including the utility of studying trafficking using behaviorally worded self-report surveys.