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MINING DATA TO UNDERMINE INJUSTICE: How Empirical Research is Increasing Our Understanding of Human Trafficking

. Vanessa Bouché


Sex trafficking Supply

gangs Distribution traffickers corporations organized crime

Prevention Protection Prosecution



“I knew it was horrific, but it was all I ever knew. I hated it but I didn't know it was wrong. It was normal to see women be abused and to be abused and be naked all the time and have people pass money to use my body.”

supply Pus





Abuse/negle ct

Familial belonging


Physical provision

Low self-esteem


“He told me I was beautiful and got me special things my dad never got me. He actually spent time with me and made me feel important.”

RESEARCH QUESTIONS “What is public opinion on human trafficking?”

RESEARCH QUESTIONS “What is public opinion on human trafficking?”


Why trafficking? Primary Push: Social

• Childhood abuse/neglect • Lack of education • Destructive social network Secondary Push: Personal

• Criminal history • Drug/substance abuse • Financial stress


• Power • Control • Esteem

Primary push factors My dad was a biker who ran coke for the Angels. My mom was a drunk who turned into a coke addict. Me and my sisters have sexual abuse in our backgrounds. All of our good years were fucked up. I was always a delinquent. A whole entire different life would have prevented me from getting involved. I started smoking pot at 10 years old. I would need to grow up in a whole new life. Somewhere where it wasn’t ok to do what I was doing.

Secondary push factors I’ve been in prison three previous times for drugs and aggravated assault. I was in jail every other week, prison every other year. No one would miss me. I was always on pain pills. Life was so miserable so that’s why I got high off the pills all the time. I was so unhappy. Everything about the whole situation was hell. I got into it because I had a female friend who needed a driver and said she’d give me $200 for 20 minutes of my time. At the beginning my goal was to make $1000/week per girl if possible. But I knew how much I needed to make per week to cover my bills. I had to pay child support.

Pull factors I invested in night clubs, laundry shops, pizzerias. I would give money away without being a part owner because I could and everyone wanted to be my friend. (10) I was making $20k/month. I stayed in Tyson’s Corner penthouse at Ritz Carlton for two weeks. In America, the female form has been exploited by corporations and they’re making huge profits from it. It’s in the movies, music, commercials. You can’t get away from it.

Demand • $107 million annual revenue for illicit massage businesses in Houston • Reverse sting class activity • Ubiquity of online escort sites, john boards, pornography • Sex purchasing behavior is significantly and negatively correlated with attitudes about concern and government priority for human trafficking

public awareness • “Otherness” syndrome • Perceptions of most “at risk” population is incongruent with populations that elicit the “most concern” • Difficult to translate concern into personal action • Some of the most knowledgeable are the least concerned

Gendered, racial, ageist, nationalist issue • Of over 900 cases on federally-prosecuted human trafficking cases, 99% of sex trafficking victims female • 44% of survivors in Thorn report were African American, despite comprising only 7% of the overall population • Focus on minor sex trafficking • Focus on Americans over foreign national victims

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Breakfast with Dr. Vanessa Bouché  

Breakfast with Dr. Vanessa Bouché