Sarah Rapoza


Copeland, Darcy

Committee Member

Aldridge, Michael

Committee Member

McNeill, Jeanette

Committee Member

Henderson, Angela


College of Natural and Health Sciences; School of Nursing, Nursing Education


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley, (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



156 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Sex trafficking (ST) often goes unrecognized; yet, it is a pervasive issue that disproportionately affects marginalized populations. Sex trafficking involves the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving of persons for the purpose of commercial sex acts. As a result of ST, victims suffer adverse health effects and often present to healthcare facilities while still under control of their traffickers. Few healthcare personnel are aware trafficking is happening in their geographical areas and victims are rarely identified or offered assistance. The majority of studies and interventions related to ST focus on female victims despite evidence that males are also victimized. Since behaviors are directly related to attitudes and perceptions, it is important to understand nurses’ viewpoints on ST in order to develop effective trafficking education. This study was the first to look specifically at nurses’ perceptions and attitudes toward male sex trafficking victims in comparison to perceptions and attitudes toward female sex trafficking victims. This study utilized a cross-sectional design to explore the knowledge and perceptions of nurses toward sex trafficking victims. Nurses nationwide were recruited via social media and completed the Sex Trafficking Attitudes Scale (Houston-Kolnik et al., 2016). They were randomized to fill out a scale regarding either a male victim or a female victim. Attitudes and perceptions toward male victims were compared to attitudes and perceptions toward female victims. Attitudes of nurses toward male victims were significantly more negative than toward female victims regardless of nurses’ levels of education or areas of practice. The most significant findings had to do with lack of awareness that men could be victims of sex trafficking. More than half of the 725 respondents had never received any type of trafficking education. Nurses are in a prime position to identify and assist ST victims. However, they need more education about trafficking in general; specifically, they need to be taught how to recognize and assist victims. Trafficking education should include all marginalized populations rather than continuing to maintain a singular focus on cisgender female victims. Nurses have a more negative perception of male sex trafficking victims than female trafficking victims. They have less awareness of male victims and are not equipped to offer assistance. The majority of nurses in this study were not educated about trafficking and did not know how to identify or approach a potential victim. Trafficking education needs to be broadened to reach much larger nursing populations as well as expanded to include all potential victim populations.

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Available for download on Monday, May 01, 2023