Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Victoria E. Collins

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Second Advisor

Gary W. Potter

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Third Advisor

Judah Schept

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


In recent years, the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation has become a major focus on the local, national, and global level. This is despite research, which has identified labor trafficking to be a significantly larger issue across the globe. The purpose of this research is to identify how human trafficking has come to be defined in Kentucky by examining how prominent local actors guide the state’s anti-trafficking movement. Through interactions with non-profit organizations, law enforcement, and concerned citizens, factors and forces that may shape the public’s conception of human trafficking were examined. While the stated goal of most anti-trafficking advocates is to prosecute traffickers and rescue victims, the dominant understanding of human trafficking in Kentucky has shaped the anti-trafficking response in a way that does not necessarily focus on the needs of the victim in intervention efforts. This may create a narrow construction of the phenomenon that ignores larger structural issues such as gender and economic inequality, migrant patterns, and patriarchy.