Sex trafficking of minors in metropolitan, micropolitan, and rural communities

Jennifer Cole, Ginny Sprang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


The purpose of the study was to examine professionals' awareness, knowledge, and experiences working with youth victims of sex trafficking in metropolitan and non-metropolitan communities. Professionals who worked with at-risk youth and/or crime victims were recruited from all counties in a southern, rural state in the U.S. to complete a telephone survey. Surveys included closed and open-ended questions, which were theme coded. Professionals' (. n = 289) were classified into one of four categories based on the counties in which they worked: metropolitan, micropolitan, rural, and all three community types. Although there were many similarities found in trafficking situations across the different types of communities, some expected differences were found. First, as expected, more professionals in metropolitan communities perceived CSEC as being a fairly or very serious problem in the state overall. Consistent with other studies, more professionals in metropolitan communities had received training on human trafficking and reported they were familiar with the state and federal laws on human trafficking (Newton et al., 2008). Significantly more professionals in metropolitan (54.7%) communities reported they had worked with a suspected or definite victim of STM compared to professionals in micropolitan communities (29.8%). There were few differences in victim characteristics, vulnerability factors, and trafficking situations (e.g., relationship to trafficker, traffickers' techniques for controlling victims, transportation, and Internet-facilitation of trafficking) across the community types. There is a continued need for awareness building of STM and training, particularly in non-metropolitan communities, as well as adoption of screening tools, integration of trauma-informed care, and identification of best practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-123
Number of pages11
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Child sex trafficking
  • Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC)
  • Rural
  • System response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Sex trafficking of minors in metropolitan, micropolitan, and rural communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this