Methods:Due to the covert nature of sex trafficking activities, creating reliable statistics on prevalence, frequency, geography, and particulars of sex trafficking have been difficult to develop (Clawson, Layne, & Small, 2006). Over the past decade, the Federal Bureau of Investigations has reported that they have assisted in the arrest of more than 2,000 human traffickers of both sex and labor trafficking (Human Trafficking/Involuntary Servitude, 2016) but sex trafficker-focused research primarily has relied on small convenience samples with limited ability to compare across time. This gang-involved data is drawn from a larger sample of data, which was obtained by using a systematic online search method to determine the incidence of arrests for sex trafficking of a minor in the United States from 2010 to 2015.
Bivariate analyses were conducted to compare each of the outcome variables for the gang-involved minor victims of sex trafficking versus the non-gang-involved minor sex trafficking victims. Chi-square tests were used to examine differences for categorical variables. ArcGIS software was utilized, and the gang arrest data was aggregated to the state level and the Jenks Natural Breaks classification method was applied.
Results:Out of the 1,416 sex traffickers of minors arrested in the United States from 2010 to 2015, gang affiliation of the sex trafficker was identified in 231 cases (19.1%) and case details were available for 54 gang-related cases. Minor sex trafficking victims of sex traffickers who were affiliated with a gang were significantly younger, more likely to be addicted to drugs when they were recruited, more likely to have a history of foster care involvement and homelessness, and more likely to have a previous history of sex trafficking victimization when compared to non-gang involved victims of sex trafficking. Gang involved sex traffickers were also more likely than non-gang involved sex traffickers to transport a victim across state lines for the purpose of prostitution and were more likely to use sexual and psychological violence and use drugs to control their victims. ArcGIS software showed a visual representation of the data, where the general distribution of gang activity is located in coastal states or states located along the national borders.
Implications:Gang-affiliated minor victims of sex trafficking differed in their life experiences and geographical movement during victimization than non-gang affiliated minor victims. These findings indicate the need for specialized training and awareness of gang-related issues for social service providers, which is missing in our current delivery system.