Please join us for our next “Intersections: An Interdisciplinary Human Trafficking Seminar” talk on Oct 18th 3:00 -4:00pm ET featuring Christina Melander This seminar series is hosted by the Operations Research and Social Justice Lab  and Violence and Justice Research Lab at Northeastern University, supported National Science Foundation under grant #1935618. 


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Title: Developing Models of Network Structures within Sex Trafficking Operations: A Novel Transdisciplinary Approach


Abstract: Much research sheds light on victimization and resiliency for survivors of sex trafficking. Yet, there is still little empirical research on the social network structures of sex trafficking operations. Conceptual frameworks and network models developed with a transdisciplinary team of operations researchers, social scientists, and survivor-leaders can help illuminate how sex trafficking operations are structured and how they function as a business. This study brings together a secondary qualitative analysis (N=246), key stakeholder interviews (N=10), and an analysis of three comprehensive law enforcement case files of sex trafficking. Using a network analysis framework, this study demonstrates core elements of trafficking operations (single trafficker with or without a co-manager), and the dynamics of how victims are structured internally within the operation. Data shows that the core network structures for single trafficker operations are often just the beginning of broader social networks in the ecosystem where trafficking takes place, which facilitates both the trading and movement of victims, as well as financial, material, and physical support from outside facilitators. This information is critical to developing effective prevention and intervention strategies to disrupt this exploitation.


About the Speaker:

Christina Melander, MSW, (she/her) is a researcher in RTI International's Division of Applied Justice Research. Coming from a background in community practice social work, her work focuses on using participatory and community-based action research methodologies with vulnerable populations to critically examine and improve systems response to violence and marginalization. Her research areas include human trafficking, sex trading, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, gender equality, and labor protections.