Sex Trafficking in the United States

Welcome to the companion website for Sex Trafficking in the United States: Theory, Research, Policy, and Practice, by Andrea J. Nichols. Below you’ll find teaching materials for each chapter (including chapter summaries and PowerPoint slides), and a sample syllabus.

A Blackboard-ready test bank is also available upon request by emailing Andrea Nichols ( Please include your name, title, institution, and institutional email address in the request.


Chapter 1 describes the basic dynamics of sex trafficking in the United States, including legal definitions, common misconceptions, prevalence debates, and profitability.

PowerPoints for Chapter 1



Chapter 2 examines the politics of sex trafficking from feminist, political, sociological and criminological perspectives. The feminist theoretical perspectives of sex trafficking examined in this book include radical feminism, liberal feminism, and intersectional feminism. Political perspectives of sex trafficking include the competing neoliberal and abolitionist perspectives. Drawing from the field of criminology, deterrence theory and displacement theory are also described and applied to various aspects of sex trafficking. Sociological perspectives examine societal level/ environmental factors in increasing risk, including the role of weak social institutions and identity-based oppression.

PowerPoints for Chapter 2



Known as “The Porn Wars,” the feminist and political debates of pornography, and the relationship of pornography to modern-day sex trafficking discourse are examined throughout this chapter. The key areas of the pornography under debate include the relationship of pornography to violence against women more broadly, whether or not pornography facilitates demand for bought sex, and the relationship of pornography to sex trafficking. Child pornography as a form of sex trafficking is also discussed, including possession, production, and distribution.

PowerPoints for Chapter 3



Chapter 4 examines the political and feminist discourse surrounding prostitution. Further, the benefits and challenges of competing models of prostitution policy that exist around the globe, explicitly, the prohibitionist, abolitionist (Swedish), decriminalization and legalization models informed by these competing feminist and political debates, as well as criminological theories of deterrence and displacement, are described in association to sex trafficking.

PowerPoints for Chapter 4



Chapter 5 synthesizes the growing body of work examining sex trafficking survivors. The chapter includes in-depth analysis of sex trafficking survivors in the United States, including domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST), domestically trafficked or commercially sexually exploited adults, and sex trafficking of immigrants. The chapter emphasizes vulnerabilities to sex trafficking (identity-based oppression) using the intersectional theory highlighted in chapter two, including age, race, class, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, undocumented status, intellectual disability, and the role of weak social institutions in facilitating sex trafficking/commercial sexual exploitation-related vulnerabilities. The interplay between agency and victimization is also examined, including distinctions between sex work, sex trafficking, and commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). Pathways into a sex trafficking/CSE situation, as well as barriers to leaving, are also presented.

PowerPoints for Chapter 5



Chapter 6 investigates the characteristics and backgrounds of pimps and traffickers, highlighting weak social institutions and sociological factors that serve as catalysts to becoming a trafficker. Further, types of sex trafficking present in the United States are also delineated in this chapter. The most common forms of sex trafficking, the “boyfriend” pimp/ trafficking as an extension of intimate partner violence, and survival sex is discussed. While much less common than other forms of sex trafficking seen in the U.S., sex trafficking by abduction and fraud is also illustrated. Familial trafficking, cases in which parents traffic their children, is also detailed. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the glorification of pimp culture in the United States and its relationship to sex trafficking victimization.

PowerPoints for Chapter 6



Chapter 7 specifically examines sex trafficking operations. The chapter investigates venues for trafficking, such as hotels, truck stops, private parties, the Internet, the streets, escort agencies, and massage parlours. Further, use of interstate circuits in various parts of the United States is investigated. Pathways of those who are internationally trafficked are included as well. Moreover, the role of technology and trafficking is specifically examined, in terms of both recruitment and solicitation. In addition, other trafficking techniques to avoid detection, such as exploitation of the “bottom girl,” use of throwaway phones, and other methods are described. The role of organized crime rings, small-scale operations, and individual “entrepreneurs” is also detailed.

PowerPoints for Chapter 7



Chapter 8 explores the buyers of sex and the relationship between demand, prostitution, and sex trafficking from various and conflicting theoretical lenses. Characteristics of buyers are examined, as well as their varied motivations to buy sex. The prevalence of purchased sex in the United States, and debates about the role of clients implicated in sex trafficking victimization are also detailed. A critical examination of the benefits and challenges of demand reduction responses concludes the chapter.

PowerPoints for Chapter 8



Chapter 9 describes the background and development of federal anti-sex trafficking legislation, including a detailed account of the 2000 TVPA and the key components of its reauthorizations in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2013. In addition, an examination of state laws, and the way the laws themselves vary, as well as their implementation, related challenges, and relationship to the TVPA are delineated. The ways sex trafficking cases are prosecuted, including federal prosecution, state prosecution, and the challenges associated with each are explained in depth. Current challenges to law enforcement are examined as well, including key issues with identification, investigation and reporting, and implementation of the law. Negative consequences of the criminalization model are described.

PowerPoints for Chapter 9



Chapter 10 specifically investigates the practices of those who work with or may come into contact with sex trafficking survivors in the social services sector. The organizations examined include the healthcare industry, rape and sexual assault services, domestic violence services, those who work with commercially sexually exploited youth (CSEC), child protective services, juvenile justice/detention facilities, and organizations that explicitly work with sex trafficking survivors. A critique of the commonly reported indicators is provided. Needs of sex trafficked/ exploited people are also detailed. Professional practices with survivors, such as trauma informed care, survivor-defined advocacy, survivor-led programs, cultural competency, the stages of change model and motivational interviewing are explored, along with cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and transformational relationships.

PowerPoints for Chapter 10



Chapter 11 examines grassroots activism and the anti-sex trafficking movement in the United States. Specifically, the chapter delineates anti-trafficking activism in the following subsections: grassroots organizations, political activism, media activism, and the activism of international organizations operating in the United States. First, anti-trafficking activism is described, including the work of survivors, professionals in the legal and social services, and their political and community partners.  In addition, the work of other grassroots organizations emphasizing awareness and training for identification, such as in truck stops, travel plazas, train stations, bus stops, airlines, and hotels, are depicted. The chapter explores activism in the political arena and the development of legislative accomplishments on the federal and state levels to protect and prevent re-victimization of trafficking victims. The presence of international anti-trafficking organizations and their impact on anti-trafficking efforts in the United States are described. Last, media organizations who have lent their support to anti-trafficking activism, providing news coverage, documentaries, and exposure of anti-trafficking activists’ efforts, (which are of varying quality) are examined.

PowerPoints for Chapter 11



Chapter 12 describes the Green Dot initiative, with a “what can you do?” approach. This bystander intervention, first developed to respond to sexual assault and violence against women on college campuses, is applied to sex trafficking, providing responses that can be engaged in by the average person. The chapter also sums up key areas of concern in the previous chapters, providing recommendations for policy and practice regarding social services and the justice system, as well as community awareness, outreach and prevention, and suggestions for cultural and societal change.

PowerPoints for Chapter 12



Sample Syllabus