The role of the internet in the grooming, exploitation, and exit of United States domestic minor sex trafficking victimsedit
The Internet (e.g., social networking, online marketing, and encryption technologies) has been identified as a means to facilitate domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST; a.k.a., commercial sexual exploitation of children). At the same time, the Internet is increasingly being identified as a method of primary prevention and intervention for DMST among youth. However, to-date there are limited examinations of the role of the Internet in the lives of youth who experience DMST victimization. The current study aims to consider the role of the Internet in DMST grooming, exploitation, and exit. In-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 service providers in North Carolina and Texas. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded line-by-line using a grounded theory approach. Results feature two overarching themes in service provider interviews: 1) Initial exploitation and 2) Exit from exploitation. Within each of these larger themes were subthemes including technology facilitated risk and prevention needs. Overall, these qualitative findings reveal the role of the Internet in: (1) Facilitating DMST, (2) Preventing Internet-facilitated DMST, and (3) Victim exit and survivorship. Implications for research and practice are discussed.