Sex Trafficking Dynamics: Preliminary Results from a Service-Learning Course Student Project in Connecticut

Fri, September 24 | 1:45 PM EDT– 2:45 PM EDT
Topic: Research | Knowledge Level: Intermediate

Brian J. Biroscak, PhD, MS, MA, Destinee Castillo, Gabrielle Guzdek, and Jin Huang

Sex trafficking will remain an intractable problem until stakeholders have accurate information that improves decision making—information about trafficking trends and how to design high-leverage interventions. To overcome policy resistance, trafficking stakeholders must look closely at the feedbacks within the system; understand the bounded rationality behind them; and meet the goals of the participants in the system while moving the state of the system in a better direction. The two-part research question is: How does sex trafficking vary over time in Connecticut, and what are the social-ecological factors that perpetuate sex trafficking trends? Researchers interviewed 18 Connecticut stakeholders about sex trafficking dynamics, the system structures that drive those dynamics, and potential policies/solutions. The researchers are following the systematic approach outlined by Kim and Andersen (2012) to code qualitative text data to generate causal maps for system dynamics modeling. Preliminary findings focus on four main areas: 1) demand for sex trafficking, 2) supply of sex trafficking, 3) public will to address sex trafficking, and 4) political will to address sex trafficking. Preliminary results indicate that all four of these areas are interconnected through feedback processes: e.g., as supply increases and sex trafficking becomes more visible, public will and political will increase in an attempt to reduce supply. However, supply-side only strategies do not address the demand side (not high leverage). The presentation will include recommendations for further research, including that improved information flows can be a leverage point, thus providing direction for trafficking surveillance systems based on stakeholder information needs.

Presentation Objectives
  • Provide an overview of the study, including main questions, methodology, and findings
  • Describe the implications and/or recommendations based on the research
  • Provide resources for attendees interested in learning more about system dynamics modeling
About the Presenters
Brian J. Biroscak, PhD, MS, MA

Brian Biroscak is Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio, USA) in the Center for Community Health Integration, which recognizes the transformative potential of working as a cross-cutting force of integration across fragmented organizations, systems, and communities. He has published on several violence and injury research topics.

Destinee Castillo

Destinee Castillo is a student at Wesleyan University. She is double majoring in Psychology and Science in Society with a minor in African American studies. She is a student in the service-learning course, “Health of Communities”. Her career and research interests are focused on health disparities and vulnerable populations.

Gabrielle Guzdek

Gabrielle Guzdek is a student in the class of 2022 studying Biology and Science in Society at Wesleyan University. She is working with Community Health Center, Inc. through a service-learning course at Wesleyan called "Health of Communities". Gabrielle is interested in public health and public policy.

Jin Huang

Jin Huang is a bachelor's student in the Sociology and Economics Departments at Wesleyan University. She is a student in the service-learning course at Wesleyan called “Health of Communities”. Jin has a strong interest in the systematic study of commercial sex work and sex trafficking.