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Challenging the Dominant Frame: The Moderating Impact of Exposure and Knowledge on Perceptions of Sex Trafficking Victimization

NCJ Number
Social Science Quarterly Volume: 99 Issue: 4 Dated: 2018 Pages: 1283-1302
Date Published
20 pages
This study examined what promoted perceptions of sex trafficking victims produce the strongest response among the American public and how this increases exposure and accurate knowledge about the issue.

Human trafficking problems have largely been framed by political elites and the media as a sexual crime that involves innocent victims who are largely women and children. It is unclear, however, how this framing impacts the public's attitudes about the issue. To address this, the current study used data from a unique nationally representative survey experiment fielded to 2,000 Americans, with the study using a 2 2 2 experiment that manipulated the gender, age, and nationality of sex trafficking victims. The study found that the age of the victim had the greatest impact on affective, cognitive, and behavioral responses to human trafficking, but that these victim frames are conditional on the amount of exposure a subject has had to the issue of human trafficking and the level of correct knowledge he or she possesses about human trafficking. The study's overall conclusion is that victim framing in public discourse on sex trafficking does make a difference, and the reasons these frames elicit different responses are complex and moderated by respondents' exposure to information and knowledge about the issue. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2018