The commercial sex trade, at the domestic level, has become an increasingly large problem, targeting female minors. A recent study estimates that in San Diego County alone, there are approximately 3,417 to 8,108 victims of commercial sex trafficking per year, with 16.1 being the average age of entry into sex trafficking (Carpenter & Gates, 2016). The study also found that 90% of the public high schools studied reported documented cases of victimization for commercial sex trafficking, and all high schools reported recruitment by commercial sex traffickers on school grounds. Compounding the issue, law enforcement recently began making an association between commercial sex trafficking and street gang involvement (Carpenter & Gates, 2016; Frank & Terwilliger, 2015).
However, while recent research has begun to study this growing epidemic, there does not exist any research to determine whether female high school students are aware of the problem of commercial sex trafficking, and the fact that they are being targeted. Additionally, no research currently exists to determine whether being personally acquainted with a gang member increases a female high school student’s awareness of her risk for victimization. My research project will survey female high school students to assess their awareness of their risk of being targeted for commercial sex trafficking. My research also seeks to determine if a participant’s knowledge of a gang member increases her knowledge of her risk for victimization. I will then use this information to develop an informational program to present to high school students. This program will serve to increase awareness in an effort to prevent victimization.