The Crimes against Children Research Center (CCRC) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) received more than $2 million in grants from the National Institute of Justice to study child sex exploitation. There is a total of three grants, the first two focusing on child sex trafficking victimization and the third on technology such as cyberstalking and sextortion.
The first study, a survey about sex trafficking, follows up the 2005 survey that the CCRC conducted. From the press release sent from UNH on Oct. 1, Research Associate Professor of Psychology and the study’s director Kimberly Mitchell said, “Our study will assess whether police practices have been moving in the right direction.”
To ensure this, Mitchell said, “This study is actually a follow-up to a study we conducted approximately 15 years ago. In that study we captured whether police were treating the juveniles in these cases as victims or delinquents. This study is being conducted in the same way and will thus allow us to see if more of these youth are being treated as victims compared to our last study.”
The second study focuses on building effective programs to help victims affected by sex trafficking. The director of this study, Lisa Jones explains, “Victims often have multiple problems like abusive families, foster care histories, running away and substance abuse. We want to find out if programs are making a difference.” For this study the CCRC will partner up with Love146, a non-profit organization that helps young victims of sex trafficking.
The last study that the CCRC will conduct is another survey. This survey will focus on technology and about crimes against young people facilitated by the internet. The study’s director David Finkelhor explained that the survey will ask question like “What kinds of harms did you experience from the crime? What kept you from going to the police? And did you get any help from social media companies when you tried to get content removed?”
Jones explained how the two grants on child sex trafficking victimization allows them to expand their research. “In the past, trafficking victims were often treated as criminals or juvenile delinquents, but as more communities recognize these youth as victims of sexual exploitation, there is an interest in helping them get the right kinds of help and services. For one of our grants we will be working with a victim service agency evaluate how well they are helping sex trafficking victims access health services, achieve educational and employment goals, and stay safe. We are hoping that with this grant, we can help provide more information on the types of services that are most helpful to these youth.”
Mitchell also commented on how the grants allow them to expand their research. “There has been growing attention and awareness to child sex trafficking over the past 10 years. The law enforcement study will have direct implications for policy around this issue in the criminal justice system. Findings will also inform the development and revision of police training in this area. It will provide national statistics about the number of cases, breakdown across at-risk populations, and the circumstances of the victims that can be widely used by advocates and policy makers in informing the public and allocating resources.”
Finkelhor feels excited about the grants because they are able to further their investigation.
Jones added that the grants make her feel satisfied because of the research they get to do that allows them to help victims, law enforcement, mental health providers and child protection workers.
Jones talked about how the CCRC day-to-day operations look like by saying, “We work as a team with colleagues, research staff, and students on our research, so we also spend a lot of time meeting and talking together to figure out the best way to collect data, and then understand what our findings mean.”
Finkelhor added, “We spend a lot of our time on three things: trying to write good questions, figuring out how to get samples that are representative of the general population, and pouring over numbers and tables after we get the results.”
The CCRC will also be involved with a collaborative research study awarded to Northeastern University to expand their knowledge on the effects and health consequences to child sex trafficking victims.