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Dana Wittmer Publishes Human Trafficking Research

After more than two years of data collection and analysis, a team of researchers, including Colorado College Assistant Professor of Political Science Dana Wittmer, has published the first-ever report on the effectiveness of anti-human trafficking efforts in the United States. The release of the report coincides with Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Wittmer collaborated with colleagues from Northeastern University and Texas Christian University in the National Institute of Justice-funded study, titled "Identifying Effective Counter-Trafficking Programs and Practices in the U.S.: Legislative, Legal, and Public Opinion Strategies that Work." The three core objectives of the report were to:

  • Assess the effectiveness of state human trafficking laws by examining those aspects of state laws that lead to more human trafficking arrests and prosecutions
  • Conduct an in-depth examination of the state cases in which suspects were charged specifically under the state human trafficking statute
  • Examine American public opinion on human trafficking

A random sample of 2,000 Americans reveals that 90 percent of Americans understand that human trafficking is a form of slavery, and more than 80 percent of the public has "some" or "a lot" of concern about it.

"We also found that, while public concern leads to over half of the public believing that human trafficking should be a top government priority, it does not translate into personal action," Wittmer said. "In other words, our results indicate that the public has not made the connection between how their own attitudes and behaviors help or hinder the movement against human trafficking."

According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking, which includes commercialized sexual exploitation, forced labor, and domestic servitude, denies freedom to some 20 million people around the world. Fifty-five percent are women and girls. Twenty-six percent are children. The Polaris Project, a nongovernmental organization that works to combat modern-day slavery and human trafficking, estimates that the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S. alone reaches into the hundreds of thousands.

The ground-breaking report was released Monday, Jan. 25 by the National Institute of Justice, which funded the research with a $339,001 grant.

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