Dr. Lianne Urada, PhD, MSW, LCSW
Dr. Lianne Urada, PhD, MSW, LCSW is an Assistant Professor at SDSU in the School of Social Work, with a focus on Community Development within the Macro Social Work track. She is an avid and passionate researcher, involved in a wide range of many federally and privately funded grants. She serves as co-chair of the Research and Data subcommittee of our San Diego Regional Human Trafficking-Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Advisory Council alongside Dr. Monica Ulibarri. Dr. Urada’s passion shines through her work of extensive research projects and experiences.
Throughout her education, she was greatly influenced by her professors. While she was always interested in social activism, she was encouraged to pursue her own journey of activism through research after working with a Professor who focused on the WWII Japanese American Internment Camps in the U.S., which also had impacted her family. After she went directly from her undergraduate program to the Masters of Social Work program at UCLA, she was given the opportunity to do an internship on HIV in the Philippines (where she returned later to do her PhD dissertation). This was when HIV was at its height, and prevention was a major point of interest. She conducted outreach to women in the sex trade who worked in bars, massage parlors, and nightclubs. Her eyes were opened through this experience to the prevalence of human trafficking and the sex trade, leading up to its intersection with the HIV crisis. As she worked in the communities of Manila, she began to see the societal and structural issues that impacted women’s limited choices for employment that drove them into vulnerable situations. Thus, her eagerness to combat trafficking through intervention research began.
One of Dr. Urada’s core principles is to actively and continuously support the communities she interacts with. She doesn’t want to be a helicopter researcher, taking off once her study is done, never to be seen again. Instead, she acknowledges the deep connection she creates through her field work and passionately dives into the issues that those communities may face in the future. In each study, her favorite part of the work is being able to have direct interaction with the people. While she was in the Philippines completing her internship, she was followed every day by two little Filipina girls during her commute to work. Looking back, she finds hope in knowing that those girls were able to know about the drop-in center where they could receive services. Just by being there and meeting the community members, she made a difference. She still can remember the stories of people who struggled yet survived. The time she spent there, doing direct ground work, will always have a special place in her heart.
As a continual learner, intervention strategist, and innovative woman, Dr. Urada creatively addresses the interrelated sector of community issues and their ability to be fought with intervention research. She looks out for those who are the most hidden and marginalized, those that may not have access to beneficial services. We look forward to her valuable contribution as co-chair of the Research and Data subcommittee, and the work she continues to do in combating human trafficking.
Dr. Monica Ulibarri
Dr. Monica Ulibarri is co-chair of the Research and Data subcommittee of our San Diego County Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, which partners and coordinates efforts with HT-RADAR. The San Diego County Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Advisory Council has become a leader in San Diego County’s anti-trafficking work since its establishment in 2011 by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. HT-RADAR is connected to the Research & Data Subcommittee of the Advisory Council. The Co-Chairs of this subcommittee are: Lianne Urada and Monica Ulibarri. She is a Professor and Associate Program Director in the California School of Professional Psychology Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program at Alliant International University – San Diego, and holds an appointment as a Voluntary Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.
Dr. Ulibarri’s journey began as a bright undergraduate student at Claremont McKenna College. Serving as a young research assistant, she was given the opportunity to collaborate on a study on HIV cases in a women’s prison. During her interviews, she began to see common themes among the participants. There were either two scenarios presented, the partners had dragged the women into the situation that had them placed in prison, or they had done something in what they claimed to be defense of themselves or their children. This recurring narrative highlighted the gender-based violence that perpetuated these women’s stories. This experience sparked her interest in HIV prevention and gender based violence, in which she adopted a public-health perspective.
Staying research-focused throughout her education, she worked in different realms on mental health, HIV prevention, and gender-based violence. Her journey led her to conduct drug research at UCLA as she built her portfolio for clinical research. She attended graduate school at ASU, eventually coming back to San Diego at UCSD to contribute to an HIV prevention study. Many of the women Dr. Ulibarri worked with were not trafficked at the time, but had typically had some involvement with being trafficked at some point. Around this same time, she began to hear more about the trafficking issue that San Diego faced. In 2013, KPBS had a story on it. She realized that this social injustice took place right in her backyard. Her husband was conducting a study on adolescent dating violence research, and he found that adolescent dating violence could be linked to gang affiliation. The connections just kept on coming, opening her eyes to the intersectionality between gender-based violence, HIV risk, and exploitation. She began her term as co-chair of the research and data subcommittee in June 2019 alongside Dr. Lianne Urada.
She encourages those engaging in trafficking research to persevere. While discouragement is oftentimes inevitable, it is important to remember that this work is a long haul that is worth the delay of gratification. With enough drive and time to persist through obstacles that arise, you can achieve your goal.
Although there have been challenges in her effort toward uncovering and calling out injustice, Dr. Ulibarri is continually motivated by the participants she works with. She appreciates the opportunity to give them a voice while empowering them to make a difference through their experiences. As a part of the team, they work together to holistically impact the world around them.
Women Trading Sex in a U.S.-Mexico Border City: A Qualitative Study of the Barriers and Facilitators to Finding Community and Voice
Claudia Gonzalez, Kimberly C. Brouwer, Elizabeth Reed, Melanie J. Nicholls, Jessica Kim, Patricia E. Gonzalez-Zuniga, Andrés Gaeta-Rivera and Lianne A. Urada
Poverty and income inequality can increase a woman’s decision to engage in risky transactional sex, and may lead to unimaginable harms, such as violence, substance use, and human trafficking. This study examines the facilitators and barriers to finding community and voice among women trading sex in Tijuana, Mexico, and what factors, such as socio-structural support, violence, and substance use, may impact their potential to engage with others, including human service providers. Sixty qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with women trading sex in Tijuana, Mexico. Researchers met with participants for in-depth-face-to-face structured interviews. Data were coded using ATLAS.ti. Participants were aged 19–73 (mean: 37), 98% were of Mexican nationality, 90% reported trading sex independent of the control of others, with 58% identified as independent and street-based. Thirty percent of women trading sex reported substance use (excluding marijuana) and 20% reported injection drug use within 30 days. The majority reported no involvement in mobilization activities, but 85% expressed interest. However, barriers included stigma, cultural gender norms, partner violence, and privacy in regards to disclosure of sex trade involvement, moral conflict (revealing one’s involvement in sex trade), involvement in substance use, human trafficking, and feeling powerless. Facilitators were having a safe space to meet, peer support, self-esteem, feeling heard, knowledge of rights, economic need to support families, and staying healthy. Findings imply the potential to go beyond mobilizing limited groups of women in the sex trade and instead involve whole community mobilization; that is, to reach and include the more vulnerable women (substance use, trafficked) in supportive services (social services, exit strategies, better healthcare opportunities, and/or education for healthcare providers to help break societal stigmas regarding women in the sex trade) and to change the status of women in society in general.
Gonzalez, C.; Brouwer, K.C.; Reed, E.; Nicholls, M.J.; Kim, J.; Gonzalez-Zuniga, P.E.; Gaeta-Rivera, A.; Urada, L.A. Women Trading Sex in a U.S.-Mexico Border City: A Qualitative Study of the Barriers and Facilitators to Finding Community and Voice. Sexes 2020, 1, 1-18.
LGBTQ+ Homeless Young Adults and Sex Trafficking Vulnerability
Kimberly A. Hogan & Dominique Roe-Sepowitz
The sexual exploitation of LGBTQ+ young adults and how to best serve this population is an emerging field of knowledge. In July 2015, a cross-sectional purposeful sampling design was used to recruit 215 homeless young adults (ages 18–25) from greater Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, to complete the paper and pencil Youth Experiences Survey. Over a third of the sample reported having been sex trafficked, and of those, over half were LGBTQ+. Further, amongst the sample, the odds of being LGBTQ+ and sex trafficked were two times higher compared to being heterosexual. Sex trafficked LGBTQ+ homeless young adults were found to be significantly more likely to report exchanging sex for money and were also found to have reported higher rates of challenging life experiences, including suicide attempts, drug use, risk-taking, and being raped between ages 13–17 compared to sex trafficked heterosexual homeless young adults. The implications of these findings are discussed, and future research on sex trafficked LGBTQ+ homeless individuals is recommended.
Kimberly A. Hogan & Dominique Roe-Sepowitz (2020) LGBTQ+ Homeless Young Adults and Sex Trafficking Vulnerability, Journal of Human Trafficking, DOI: 10.1080/23322705.2020.1841985
Mental Health Experiences of Sex Trafficking Victims in Western Countries: A Qualitative Study
Kassandra Chu & Jo Billings
In recent years, human trafficking has received increasing public awareness and media attention, and sex trafficking in particular has become a prevailing human rights issue on a global scale. Despite growing scientific literature in the field, there remains a limited number of international qualitative studies investigating victims’ needs. This study aims to explore the experiences of people who have been sex trafficked in a Western country and how this impacted their mental health, as described in online first-person accounts. First-person online narratives of sex trafficking victims (n = 30) were retrieved from a systematic online search. A thematic analysis identified overarching themes, with the most prominent being 1) preexisting vulnerabilities, 2) psychological mechanisms involved in trafficking (i.e. deception, manipulation), and 3) barriers to recovery. The results showed how preexisting vulnerabilities can impact victims’ susceptibility to trafficking and how psychological control tactics utilized in the trafficking process maintain victims’ vulnerability. The results of this thematic analysis provide insight into the diverse set of mental, social, and legal needs that trafficking victims face and may inform potential post-trafficking interventions to meet these needs and prevention efforts to reduce vulnerability to trafficking. Further implications and methodological considerations are discussed in full.
Kassandra Chu & Jo Billings (2020) Mental Health Experiences of Sex Trafficking Victims in Western Countries: A Qualitative Study, Journal of Human Trafficking, DOI: 10.1080/23322705.2020.1825897
“When Her Visa Expired, the Family Refused to Renew It,” Intersections of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence: Qualitative Document Analysis of Case Examples from a Major Midwest City
Erica Koegler, Whitney Howland, Patric Gibbons, Michelle Teti, and Hanni Stoklosa
This study aimed to further understand typologies of trafficking that occur in the home, by an individual’s intimate partner (IP) or family members and this overlap with extant knowledge on perpetrator manipulation via the Power and Control Wheel. Inductive and deductive techniques were used to analyze secondary data from a federally funded anti-trafficking program in a Midwest metropolitan area recorded between 2008 and 2017. Cases were included if there was indication of sex or labor exploitation initiated by an IP, family member, or other in the domestic setting via elements of abuse; 59 cases of 213 met this criteria. Most cases included the IP as the trafficker, followed by family members, then others in the domestic setting. Abuse was more commonly used than the threat of abuse. From the Power and Control Wheel, the most frequent types of abuse were using privilege, physical abuse, economic abuse, isolation, and sexual abuse. Case typologies included: those with elements of sex trafficking, specifically forced commercial sex by an IP or family member; those with elements of labor trafficking such as domestic servitude (with or without childcare provision abuse), exploitation in a family business by an IP or family member, or work environments by family and non-family; those with elements of sex and labor trafficking included servile partnerships and forced marriage. Trafficking exploitation by an IP, family member, or in the domestic setting is not uncommon. Intimate relationships with a trafficker, psychological coercion, and threats may reduce reporting of abuse, subsequent provision of services, and result in misclassification as victims of IP violence. This study sheds light on various typologies of trafficking and exploitation in the domestic setting, further expanding the anti-trafficking movement’s evidence base for intervention and prevention and adding complexity and nuance to the pathways to trafficking exploitation.
Erica Koegler, Whitney Howland, Patric Gibbons, Michelle Teti, and Hanni Stoklosa (2020) “When Her Visa Expired, the Family Refused to Renew It,” Intersections of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence: Qualitative Document Analysis of Case Examples from a Major Midwest City, SAGE Journa, DOI: 10.1177/0886260520957978