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Maite Silva, Marianna Carlucci, Ph.D., Heather Z. Lyons, Ph.D., Alix McLearen, Ph.D.

Disparities Related to Vulnerability for Recruitment into Commercial Sexual Exploitation among Female Offender Minorities

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Research has indicated that there may be associations between commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), LGBTQ status, ethnic minority status, and minority mental health status. In spite of this, a dearth of research has investigated these variables and their relation to one another (Garofalo, Deleon, Osmer, Doll, & Harper, 2006; Wilson et al., 2009). Based upon the available findings, there are likely overlaps between vulnerabilities related to CSE and those found in people with intersecting minority identities which facilitate their recruitment into CSE; however, further research on these variables is needed to definitively establish associations between these variables.

In light of the negative consequences that are associated with living the minority experience as a member of the LGBTQ community, an ethnic minority group, and/or having mental health issues, it is important to understand various pathways that lead to CSE (Weber, Boivin, Blais, Haley, & Roy, 2004; Widom & Kuhns, 1996). Understanding these pathways and predictor variables may aid in recognizing risk factors and establishing effective interventions to reduce vulnerabilities for CSE. By investigating relations among LGBTQ, ethnic minority, and minority mental health status, interventions that focus on building resilient minority identities may be created and implemented to aid in the prevention of recruitment for CSE (Saar, Epstein, Rosenthal, & Vafa, 2015).

The purpose of the current study is to elucidate the relationships between CSE and LGBTQ, ethnic, and mental health status in the commercially sexually exploited and general population. Specifically, this study will aim to increase an understanding of identity intersectionalities and how the minority experience may exacerbate vulnerabilities that make certain individuals especially prone to victimization through sex trafficking. LGBTQ, ethnic, and mental health minorities represent a unique population that has been demonstrated to be overrepresented in the commercially sexually exploited (Nelson-Butler, 2015; Saar et al., 2015).

The purpose of the study will be to explore ways of addressing disparities so as to prevent those with minority identities, especially intersecting minority identities, from being victimized by traffickers seeking to sexually exploit the vulnerable. An incarcerated sample of female offenders from the Federal Bureau of Prisons will be surveyed for the purposes of this study given that prisons house many of the individuals who have been involved in CSE and who represent the diverse intersecting minority identities that appear to place those who are victimized at risk. Data will be analyzed using logistic regressions. History of commercial sexual exploitation (involvement versus no involvement) and willingness to resort to commercial sex (willingness versus unwillingness) will serve as the outcome variables and participant identity risk factors (main effects and interactions) will serve as the predictor variables.


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