Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Patrick Baron, Dr. Melissa González
Human trafficking has primarily been addressed as a crime issue, but in recent years, it is increasingly being recognized as a public health crisis. Researchers and governments want to quantify and characterize human trafficking in the US. However, reported statistics often lack methodological integrity. There are several challenges to data collection on human trafficking victims including unclear definitions of human trafficking, misclassification of cases, bias in screening tools, the sensitivity of the subject, and the fact that it is an illegal, hidden market. A public health approach requires accurate, valid data to inform evidence based best practices. It is important to understand who is at risk, what is the burden of health outcomes, how to better identify and classify victims, to advance our understanding of these issues, to create preventative interventions, and provide more appropriate services for survivors. North Carolina is taking an interesting approach to the issue of human trafficking. A community-wide data collection pilot project in Charlotte, called Project NO REST, is attempting to address the lack of accurate statistics for incidence and prevalence of human trafficking in the area. My research aims to study the landscape of current efforts to collect and report data on human trafficking victim-survivors in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County. I conducted a convergent mixed methods study, with interviews of relevant stakeholders, a focus group, a pilot survey, field notes, and summary data from the first three quarters of the Project NO REST pilot project. I identified main themes and discuss how they serve as barriers to collecting and reporting accurate data on human trafficking victim-survivors, to be translated into evidence-based best-practices for anti-trafficking direct service providers. My findings inform recommendations for improving community capacity to collect and utilize data to improve comprehensive, continuing services to survivors.