Written by Katie Quinn, CJR Student Initiatives Coordinator
Katherine Bright is a passionate and talented researcher with experience in both clinical and laboratory settings. her early work in direct care, Bright worked with 12-18-year-old boys who were in and out of foster care and/or coming out of juvenile detention centers. From there she worked as a case manager for homeless teen mothers. During her clinical work, she noticed people’s focus was placed solely on the children of the teen mothers, and would commonly overlook the fact that the mothers were children themselves. This encouraged her to spend most of her early time in research looking into child abuse and victimization of teen mothers because she believed that there needed to be a larger emphasis. Since then, her research has expanded, looking into the correlation between financial insecurity and homelessness among teenage parents, commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), adult sex trafficking, and domestic and international labor trafficking.
Bright notes that her academic career and experience as both a student and researcher fueled her to look into needed changes in the anti-trafficking sector, one being the implementation of trauma-informed training for researchers in academia. Her research is fueled by her relationships and conversations with the demographic she’s studying during her clinical work. “If you don’t have stories and faces… as you’re doing this work, the reason that you’re pushing forward gets diluted by a lot of your own professional desires.” She reflects that clinical work is not always given the importance it deserves in academia. Direct experience is particularly important when showing up to vulnerable communities. This human interaction gives a full grasp of the impact of complex trauma on a population. Without the proper trauma-informed training, studies can cause harm and retraumatize the people they are meant to support. Bright proposes macro-changes in structural shifts that encourage trauma-informed research and survivor-led spaces so that they can be in charge of their own recovery process.
Another motivation for her research is advocating for males who are victimized by human trafficking. Before Bright worked in HT, she worked in the San Diego foster care system with boys and noticed a severe gap in HT screenings and staff training for recognizing boys being trafficked. She recalls that 75% of all males she worked with within foster care had been victims of sexual violence. There are little to no outlets for men to escape because there is limited housing available or trauma-informed care based on a male-gendered approach. These lessons and inspirations come from the people she has witnessed in these situations who are not benefiting from the way it is now. Bright said that men who grow up in predominantly masculine environments will rarely benefit from feminine interventions — they will more likely dissuade them from treatment. She says the tools to bridge the gap are available, there simply has to be a way to bring them into action. Males have been seen as victims of labor trafficking, yet few researchers and service providers look for signs of sexual exploitation. Bright recommends a ‘Yes, And’ approach, “You can’t erase all the male victimization that we already know about in labor trafficking (and at the same time) try to do a better job about equity in sex trafficking.”
In her work thus far, Katherine Bright has made tremendous strides in progressing HT research. One of her most recent publications, A longitudinal evaluation of a survivor-mentor program for child survivors of sex trafficking in the United States, critically assesses a CSEC survivor-mentor program to see if youth who participated in it experienced any significant changes in victimization, social support, and coping. In the near future, she hopes to use her HT research experience to develop ways to create and support a curriculum to train other researchers and students in trauma-informed practices so research can continue to highlight evidenced-based practices to uplift victims and survivors of trafficking without causing harm in the process.
Service Providers’ Perspectives on Sex Trafficking of Male Minors: Comparing Background and Trafficking Situations of Male and Female Victims
Even though it is documented that sex trafficking of male minors occurs, limited research has focused on this type of commercial sexual exploitation. Data was collected via telephone interviews from 323 professionals who worked with at-risk youth and/or crime victims/offenders in all counties in a mostly rural state in the U.S. Half of the respondents had worked with at least one victim of child sex trafficking, and of these 161 respondents, 57.8% had worked with at least one male victim. To contextualize the data on male minor victims, quantitative analysis was conducted comparing the close-ended and themes identified in open-ended responses of professionals who reported they worked exclusively with male victims (n = 26) versus professionals who worked exclusively with female victims (n = 81) to examine how sex trafficking of male minors may differ or be similar to sex trafficking of female minors. Many similarities in victims’ vulnerability factors, the systems victims encountered, and their greatest needs were found by gender. Familial sex trafficking was one of the typical pathways into commercial sexual exploitation for minors. There were some differences in the pathways in sex trafficking by gender. There is a need for greater awareness, training, and resource-building for identifying and appropriately responding to male minors who are trafficked in commercial sex.
Cole, J. Service Providers’ Perspectives on Sex Trafficking of Male Minors: Comparing Background and Trafficking Situations of Male and Female Victims. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 35, 423–433 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-018-0530-z
Development of a Multi-Session Curriculum Addressing Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking for High-Risk Male Youth
Meagan Fitzgerald, Timothy Owens, Jessica Moore, Amy Goldberg, Elizabeth Lowenhaupt & Christine Barron
Males, in particular adolescents and young adults, have been increasingly recognized as involved in domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST). However, there are very sparse resources and organizations that provide prevention, identification, and interventions for boys and young men who are involved in or at-risk for DMST involvement. The objective was to develop and assess an educational curriculum to prevent adolescent male involvement in DMST through a three-pronged educational approach: as victims of sexual exploitation; receiving financial benefit as exploiters; as buyers of sex. Through quality improvement cycles, changes were made to enhance the curriculum by utilizing the outcome measures of participant questionnaires and feedback from a steering committee of clinical experts. Male youth at the state’s juvenile detention center were asked to participate in pilot groups, as they were identified as a high-risk population of adolescents to become involved. The curriculum was modified by adding sessions, including additional community guest speakers, and providing a more holistic educational experience that involves trafficking prevention from both a victimization and perpetration standpoint. Our goal is to expand this educational opportunity to be utilized in multiple settings (e.g., schools, hospitals) across the country.
Fitzgerald, M., Owens, T., Moore, J., Goldberg, A., Lowenhaupt, E., & Barron, C. (2021). Development of a multi-session curriculum addressing domestic minor sex trafficking for high-risk male youth. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 30(6), 667–683. https://doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2021.1937427
The Relationship between Sextortion during COVID-19 and Pre-pandemic Intimate Partner Violence: A Large Study of Victimization among Diverse U.S Men and Women
Asia A. Eaton, Divya Ramjee & Jessica F. Saunders
In a large and diverse sample of U. S. adults, we assessed participants’ experience with pre-COVID in-person intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization and with sextortion victimization during COVID to better understand the relationship between these phenomena. Experiencing sexual IPV pre-COVID increased the likelihood that men and women would experience sextortion during COVID. Men, Black and Native women, LGBTQ individuals, and emerging adults more often experienced sextortion during COVID than other groups. Implications for research on technology-facilitated sexual violence and practice with survivors are explored.
Asia A. Eaton, Divya Ramjee & Jessica F. Saunders (2022) The Relationship between Sextortion during COVID-19 and Pre-pandemic Intimate Partner Violence: A Large Study of Victimization among Diverse U.S Men and Women, Victims & Offenders, DOI: 10.1080/15564886.2021.2022057
Rethinking Research on Sexual Exploitation of Boys: Methodological Challenges and Recommendations to Optimize Future Knowledge Generation
Katherine Mitchell, Melissa Moynihan, Claire Pitcher, Annabel Francis, Abigail English, Elizabeth Saewycb
Research and policies on child and adolescent sexual exploitation frequently focus on the sexual exploitation of girls and fail to recognize the experiences of sexually exploited boys, including their potentially unique health care and social support needs. This oversight limits the ability of health care and social service providers to offer both targeted and evidence-informed care to sexually exploited boys. As the first step in a larger grant to understand the experiences of sexually exploited boys and to develop interventions for this specific population, we conducted a systematic review to address the question, “What is the state of the research on sexually exploited boys internationally?” As we undertook this review, we faced a number of significant challenges that made the process more difficult than anticipated. In this paper we discuss four key methodological challenges we encountered: lack of a consistent definition of child and adolescent sexual exploitation, difficulties in differentiating sexual exploitation as a specific concept within child sexual abuse, failure to disaggregate data usefully across multiple variables, and limited epidemiological studies to inform prevalence. We reflect on how these challenges limited our ability to systematically analyze, synthesize, and interpret the available research. We conclude by making recommendations to improve the state of the research regarding sexually exploited boys with the aim of better informing future policy and practice.
Katherine Mitchell, Melissa Moynihan, Claire Pitcher, Annabel Francis, Abigail English, Elizabeth Saewyc,
Rethinking research on sexual exploitation of boys: Methodological challenges and recommendations to optimize future knowledge generation, Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 66, 2017, Pages 142-151, ISSN 0145-2134, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.01.019.
An Exploratory Study of Labor Trafficking Among U.S. Citizen Victims
Meredith Dank, Ph.D., Amy Farrell, Ph.D., Sheldon Zhang, Ph.D., Andrea Hughes, LMSW, Stephen Abeyta, Irina Fanarraga, Cameron P. Burke, Veyli Ortiz Solis
The Research Foundation of the City University of New York, under a 2017 grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, examined U.S. citizen labor trafficking victimization. The study consisted of three primary objectives: 1) determine what personal or structural vulnerabilities put U.S. citizens at risk for labor trafficking; 2) determine where labor trafficking is located on a continuum of labor exploitation for U.S. citizens; and 3) determine how U.S. citizens experience victimization from labor trafficking. These objectives were addressed through a survey of individuals who are at high risk for labor-related victimization in three U.S. cites (New York City, San Diego, and Anchorage) with personal interviews being conducted with a sub-sample of victims identified. The samples used in the study were identified with “snowball” sampling techniques and in collaboration with social service providers.
Dank, M., Ortiz Solis, V., Burke, C. P., Fanarraga, I., Abeyta, S., Hughes, A., Zhang, S., & Farrell, A. (n.d.). An Exploratory Study of Labor Trafficking Among U.S. Citizen Victims. Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved from https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/exploratory-study-labor-trafficking-among-us-citizen-victims.