Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Chwalisz, Kathleen


Sex traffickers use control and coercion strategies to maintain a system of commercial sexual exploitation, and those strategies have several adverse consequences to survivors. Identifying specific strategies used by pimps and their relationship with societal vulnerabilities can better guide prevention and intervention efforts to deter sex trafficking. The current study addresses the development of the Sex Trafficking Control Model (SCTM), an integrative data-driven model of control and coercion strategies used by traffickers. The SCTM was developed using a qualitative grounded theory approach, based on in-depth interviews with nine women survivors of sex trafficking. The SCTM consists of five structures that represent survivor’s experiences with trafficking (i.e., early vulnerabilities, pimp control, consequences for survivors, system responses, escape trafficking). The STCM addresses a gap in the literature, as it identifies trafficking as more than just a set of control strategies, but as a relational phenomenon. Traffickers appear to exploit survivor’s disorganized attachment to groom, recruit, and maintain victims in sex trafficking. Practical and research implications of the SCTM are discussed, as well as specific suggestions for first responders and providers for prevention and intervention with survivors.

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