This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Relationship Between Polyvictimization and Perceptions of Police Moderated by Race in Survivors of Sex Trafficking




Schiferl, Michael

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Studies


Sex trafficking is a violent crime that affects millions of survivors every year (International Labor Organization [ILO], 2017). Law enforcement officers frequently interact with victims of sex trafficking, putting them in a strategic position to offer aid (Footer et al., 2019; U.S. Department of State, 2014). However, research has suggested that survivors of sex trafficking and law enforcement officers often share negative perceptions of each other (Farrell & Pfeffer, 2014; Mapp et al., 2016), views that may be especially common among survivors of color (Davies, Block, & Campbell, 2007). This study used cross-sectional data from a sample of 135 survivors of sex trafficking to explore this phenomenon. First, this study explored if meaningful differences in trauma exposure and perceptions of police existed based on survivor race. Additionally, this study tested if trauma exposure predicted survivors’ perceptions of police, as well as if survivor race moderated this relationship. Results indicated that participants who reported higher levels of polyvictimization and who identified as a racial minority had the least favorable perceptions of the police. Additionally, results showed that survivor trauma exposure predicted their perceptions of police and that race moderated this relationship. These results provide support for continued law enforcement education/training about sex trafficking and racial marginalization. Implications for service providers and law enforcement are discussed, as are suggestions for future study directions.