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Grooming Traffickers: Investigating the Techniques and Mechanisms for Seducing and Coercing New Traffickers

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Past Project Period End Date
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $499,796)

This proposal will investigate how sex traffickers are groomed, or mentored, to be traffickers, how they groom new traffickers, and how they are socially networked.

Past research indicates how traffickers groom trafficking victims, but few have examined how people learn techniques of deception, manipulation, and coercion, and move through the illicit sex trade to become traffickers. This project will examine the nature and process of grooming of new sex traffickers and recruiters, especially identifying variations within social networks of conventional and illicit groups.

The applicant aims to investigate three research questions:
1) Are there patterned processes or mechanisms from which older/experienced traffickers teach or model these skills to the pimps, recruiters, sex workers or sex trafficking victims who, over time, recruit other trafficking victims?
2) How are traffickers socially networked to other traffickers, pimps and established sex workers who manage or recruit other sex workers (i.e., “bottoms”) and how does grooming differ across social networks in New York City and Chicago?
3) How do traffickers detect vulnerabilities of potential recruits and what are the key individual and structural vulnerabilities that they target?

Recruiting through multiple entry points and financial incentives, the applicant will conduct in-depth interviews with a total of 200 traffickers, “bottoms” or recruiters/assistant managers who are active in the illicit sex trade in New York City and Chicago. These data will reveal strategies about how to identify and prevent traffickers’ grooming, providing critical knowledge for anti-trafficking agencies and law enforcement.

"Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF.

Date Created: September 13, 2019