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  Jennifer Denker 
  Addressing the epidemic of sex trafficking in Massachusetts

Advisor: Heidi Berggren

Abstract:

Human sex trafficking remains a major, under recognized, public health epidemic.  Despite some recent efforts to increase awareness, major barriers remain.  To begin to understand why this remains almost unheard of in the state of Massachusetts, recent publications and laws were reviewed and members of the professional community responsible for identifying and responding to the issue were interviewed.  Several common themes emerged from this research, including; (1) Lack of public awareness,  (2) Complex social factors, (3) Slowly changing culture of professionals, (4) Fragmented Approaches, and (5) Lack of Resources.   The differences between Boston and smaller cities are emphasized, especially pertaining to the culture of professionals.  Based on these findings a series of priority initiatives have been identified to favorably impact this epidemic.  

The broader impacts of this research are to begin helping remove victims from this life of sexual exploitation.  Through addressing the indicated issues in our state, society can begin to diminish the immense sex trafficking industry that exists today in our state, and around the world.  There are still significant strides that need to be made on this issue.  A system to collect hard data on the number of victims in each region must be implemented in conjunction with the recently passed state legislation on trafficking.  This data must also be shared amongst the various organizations, along with best practices, in order to combat the issue statewide.  Additionally, this is an international issue, and a very complex one that has many aspects which require further research.  While this is a fairly general study on the state of Massachusetts, many of the themes identified require further research to quantitatively support the perception of the individuals interviewed for this study, as well as to extend those implications to other regions of the country, and world.

 

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