June 6, 2023 Recap – Human Trafficking of College Students in San Diego County and Imperial Valley
Dr. Lianne Urada Presented on Human Trafficking of College Students in San Diego County and Imperial Valley: Results from the 2022-2023 Survey

Quarterly Meeting

June 6, 2023

Few studies have examined the prevalence of human trafficking on college/university campuses in the U.S. The study presented surveyed college students, ages 18 and over, on over 12 campuses across San Diego County and Imperial Valley, including private, public, 4-year and community colleges. 

Video Recording

Time stamps:

0:00       –  Introductions

2:00       –  Presentation by Dr. Lianne Urada

36:58     –  Q& A

57:46     –  Attendee Introductions

1:05:25  – Discussion Group Activity

World Cafe Discussion Summary

Human Trafficking College campuses HT-RADARThis HT-RADAR Quarterly Meeting included breakout groups where attendees took what they learned from the presentation to brainstorm solutions and identify research opportunities to ultimately mitigate sexual exploitation on college campuses. During the “World Cafe Discussion” attendees had the opportunity to discuss two questions at a time for 20 minutes through groups of six people. The following is a summary of 12 different conversations from our 43 attendees. Click on the questions to see the ideas generated by the attendees.

*Each asterisk highlights recurring topics within the conversations.

Click on the question to read what was discussed: 

What future research can be done to prevent sexual exploitation on college campuses?

Ideas for Research:

    • Is Commercial Sex a pipeline for HT?
    • What are the warning signs for college students who are sexually exploited?
    • Surveys:
      • Only fan & others (rub hub + dating apps)
      • Roadmaps for websites 
      • Code language/emojis
      • Incorporate into campus climate surveys – add Sexual Exploitation question
        • Student surveys, insert 2-3 questions about force, fraud, coercion
        • State-level surveys for state colleges
        • Private colleges can insert surveys themselves
      • How many are paying for sex? Are buyers on campus?
        • Economic impact
      • More on Only Fans attitudes and beliefs  (“cool to do” mentality)
      • Check on views on attitudes and perceptions of the incoming class
        • Tailor orientation to responses from the incoming class
        • Many have normalized Only Fans
    • Social media-specific report… the impact of it
      • Another concerning app (Live 360^) sharing location with strangers


Methods: Over 1,000 San Diego and Imperial Valley college students who either experienced or knew another college student who experienced human trafficking, sexual exploitation, or selling sex responded to fliers advertising the online survey. The fliers were posted across campuses in bathrooms or bulletin boards.

Preliminary data on 500 participants who engaged in sexual exchanges are reported on for this presentation. Measures included validated scales for human trafficking and substance use. Survey data analysis includes both quantitative and qualitative responses. Results: The majority (81%) were undergraduates; 61% were female, 32% male, 6% nonbinary, 75% heterosexual, 14% bisexual, 10% homosexual; 35% were White, 30% Latinx, 24% Black/African American, 17% Asian/Pacific Islander, 6% American Indian/Alaskan Native. More than one in five ever exchanged sex for something of monetary or other value as a college student and 19% said they would consider it. 26% said they were forced/coerced/frauded into selling sex as a college student. 14% of all participants said they ever heard, seen, or suspected human trafficking on a college campus. Former or current foster youth were 2-6 times and Black/African American students were 2 times more likely than others to be forced/coerced or deceived into selling sex.

Conclusion: Implications of these research findings for practice include:

  •  Campuses could target policies and measures to prevent human trafficking, such as for those facing economic insecurities, foster youth, and BIPOC (Black Indigenous Persons of Color).
  •  Training college campus personnel about human trafficking and sexual exploitation so that students are more likely to use services.
  • Warning parents and students during freshmen orientations about human trafficking.


Presentation Slides

To download or print presentation slides, click here

Human Trafficking Among college students


Speaker Bio
Dr. Lianne Urada

Lianne A. Urada, Ph.D., MSW, LCSW is an Associate Professor of Social Work at San Diego State University and Associate Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego. She is core faculty for the SDSU-UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Research on Substance Use. Her research focuses on developing and testing interventions to address homelessness, human trafficking, HIV, and historical community trauma. Her 45+ publications include a focus on women and vulnerable populations in the U.S., Philippines, Latin America, and Russia. She was Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator on several federally and privately funded grants, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse R21 grant developing and testing an intervention for unstably housed individuals using opioids at public libraries. She was also PI of a NIDA K01 grant examining community mobilization and its potential to reduce HIV/STI risk and violence among substance-using women in the commercial sex trade in Tijuana, Mexico, and conducted similar research in the Philippines and Russia. She holds a License in Clinical Social Worker and was formerly a UCLA Field Education faculty member. She is currently on the Board of Directors for Christie’s Place (transforming the lives of women affected by HIV/AIDS in San Diego) and past Co-chair of the Research Subcommittee for the San Diego Regional Human Trafficking & Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Advisory Council.


This presentation highlighted the following studies:

Reviewing the topic resources ahead of time was not required, but encouraged.

  1. Recommended studies on this topic include:  
  2. UK-based study: Student involvement in the UK sex industry authored by Tracey Sagar, Debbie Jones, Katrien Symons, Jacky Tyrie, Ron Roberts


IVAT Provided CE Credits for this Meeting

The cost of CE credit for this training was $15. The time window to receive credit for this presentation has passed, but HT-RADAR has partnered with IVAT to provide CE credits in future quarterly meetings. 

The Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma maintains responsibility for this continuing education program and its content. The California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) now accepts American Psychological Association continuing education credit for license renewal for LCSWs, LMFTs, LPCCs, and LEPs. CE credits approved by California agencies are accepted in most states. The Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma is approved by the California Board of Registered Nurses to offer continuing education for nurses (CEP #13737). The Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma is approved by the State Bar of California to offer Minimum Continuing Legal Education for attorneys (#11600). The Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma is approved by the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAAP) to sponsor continuing education for certified alcohol and drug abuse counselors (Provider #IS-03-499-0223).   

Learning Objectives
Participants were able to:
  1. Identify at least three conditions that can lead to human trafficking and sexual exploitation of college students in San Diego County and Imperial Valley.
  2. Describe at least two socio-demographic risk factors associated with being exploited/trafficked as a college.
  3. Apply research findings in at least two ways to address human trafficking prevention, intervention, or multisectoral collaborative practices for college students.
Past Quarterly Meeting Recaps