Date of Award


Degree Type



Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs

First Advisor

Harper, Brian

Subject Headings

Child trafficking -- Ohio, Human trafficking -- Ohio, Human trafficking -- United States, Human trafficking -- Social aspects, Human trafficking -- Law and legislation -- United States, education, education policy, educational sociology, human trafficking, sex trafficking, domestic minor sex trafficking, DMST, qualitative research, Ohio court documents, human rights


Human trafficking is often considered to be one of the three largest criminal enterprises worldwide, ranking beside the sale of illegal drugs and illicit firearms (Bales, 2004, 2007 Bales & Doodalter, 2009 Hussein, 2011 Schauer & Wheaton, 2006 Skinner, 2008). National estimates suggest that 100,000-300,000 American, school-aged children are at-risk for sex trafficking (Department of Homeland Security, 2014) while there is only a one percent arrest and conviction record for traffickers (Bales, 2007). This dissertation explored the portrayal of force, fraud, and coercion within federal domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) trials of Northern Ohio from 2010-2013 so as to gain a greater understanding of the contributing factors that make individuals vulnerable to the phenomenon. DMST occurs when a "commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age" (U.S. Department of State, 2011). Data were examined via qualitative means by conducting a narrative analysis of existing court documentation of fifteen confirmed DMST cases, guided by critical theory and feminist epistemology. Findings revealed dimensions of individual agency in tension with structural and cultural conditions as well as a complex set of factors contributing to the persistence and legal response to sex trafficking. The examined episodes of DMST were initiated via factors that included fraudulent documents, economic instability, emotional dependency, drug addiction, reliance on an informal/underground economy, and lack of educational attainment. DMST continued through factors including physical force, coercion, indebtedness, feelings of belonging, the leveraging of an intimate relationship, financial arrangements, and the reliance on an informal/underground economy. The episode of DMST was terminated via law enforcement involvement, voluntary departure, familial involvement, ending the use of illegal drugs, and coming into a period of economic stabili