An Exploration of Youth Vulnerability, Risk Factors, and Changes in the Commercial Sexual Exploitation Environment in Georgia Open Access

Ducak-Barisic, Dora (Spring 2021)

Permanent URL:


Introduction: Populations disproportionately affected by commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) include marginalized communities: Black and brown youth, LGBTQ youth, those with previous experiences of child and sexual abuse, foster care, and have run away from home and/or are experiencing homelessness. This study seeks to understand the CSEC environment in Georgia and the initiatives designed to prevent and respond to it.

Methods: Data were collected from six key informants through ~1-hour in-depth interviews conducted via Zoom and phone. Participants included individuals working in the juvenile court system, state and organizational positions, and local organizational leaders. Interviews were coded using deductive and inductive codes and analyzed thematically for emergent themes. Main limitation includes research and data limited to sample size of 6 interviews, and thus, did not reach saturation.

Results: Five themes emerged: (1) Environmental and social evolution of CSEC, for example the false “victim” stereotype of “the typical girl cowering in the corner” ; (2) Risk factors and changes in populations including changes through recruitment through social network, and exploitation by peers; (3) Implementing systems and services for at-risk youth and gaps in services including manipulation and denial from youth; (4) The importance of aligned implementing partners and challenges of inter-agency “infighting” and (5) Recommendations for improving programming.

Discussion: Stakeholders discussed successes and gaps of current initiatives, the changes in support due to global change in awareness, needs and challenges of youth, communities, and services, and the inter-agency dynamics of different stakeholders and implementing partners. All stakeholders regarded awareness and importance of trauma-informed framework but referenced barriers to Trauma-Informed implementation. Stakeholder observed changes in on-ramps included increase in online recruitment, recruitment using trusted persons, and increased awareness of male and LGBTQ cases. Stakeholders mentioned needs and recommendations of services emphasizing survivor-led initiatives, community-based programming, preventative services, family and relationship focus, and individualized support for unrepresented populations (e.g., exploited youth recruiters, severe mental health disorders, substance abuse). The results of this study represent the need for further research and data expansion across stakeholders, and the need to target and resolve systemic issues disproportionately affecting marginalized communities. 

Table of Contents

Acronyms 1

Definition of Terms 2

CHAPTER 1: Review of Literature 6

Global and Domestic Burden of CSEC 6

History of Global CSEC 6

CSEC in the United States 8

Historical Racial Context in the U.S. 10

Recruitment 11

Most Vulnerable Victims 11

What is Being Done 14

State of Georgia Context 15

Georgia Background 15

What is being done – Georgia 16

Abuse to Prison Pipeline 17

Mental Health 18

Trauma-Informed Care 19

Conclusion 22

Abstract 25

Introduction: 25

Methods: 25

Introduction 26

Methods 31

Results 34

Demographics 34

Risk Factors and Changes in the Populations of Trafficked Youth 35

Changes in the Environmental and Social Evolution of CSEC 41

Implementing Systems and Services for At-Risk Youth 45

The Importance of Aligned Implementing Partners 46

Recommendations for Improving Programming for Exploited Youth 47

Discussion 52

References 57

CHAPTER 3: Public Health Implications 63



Appendix 1: Consent Form 76

Appendix 2: Data use agreement 78

Appendix 3: Interview Guide 80

Appendix 4: Recruitment Email 83

Appendix 5: Codebook 84


Table 1. 88

Figure 1. 88

Figure 2. 89

Figure 3. 89

Figure 4. 90


About this Master's Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files