Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Cynthia D. Connelly, PhD, RN, FAAN, Chairperson; Ruth A. Bush, PhD, MPH; Kathy Marsh, PhD, CNS, RN


human trafficking, mental health, vulnerable populations


Background/Purposes/ Aims: Human trafficking (HT) is a threat to human rights globally. Studies indicate between 28% and 87% of HT victims encountered a health care professional during their trafficking period. Nonetheless, little is known about the health care needs of victims of HT. The purpose of this study was to examine the health care needs of a self-identified group of trafficked women in San Diego County, California.

Conceptual Basis: The Model of Human Trafficking and Health by Zimmerman et al. (2011) was used to identify multiple determinates of health following the trafficking period including demographic factors (age at assessment, age at entry into trafficking, ethnicity, history of homelessness, history of foster care), exploitation factors (motivation for trading sex), needs assessment (drug rehabilitation, methadone maintenance, counseling), sexual health factors (use of condoms), and mental health factors (depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder).

Method: Retrospective, descriptive study of previously collected data (2012-2015) from first-time offenders arrested for prostitution participating in a law-enforcement diversion program. 191 were interviewed, 31 (16.6%) self-identified as HT victims. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to describe the sample and examine the relationships between the variables.

Results: All HT victims were women, significantly younger (M=23.3, SD 6.67), versus (M=26.95, SD 9.21); t(55) = 2.51, p = .015, more likely to have a history of homelessness, x2(1, N = 188) = 11.18, p = .001, been in the foster care system x2(2, N = 191) = 5.93, p = .048, “feeling depressed” [x2(2, N =31) = 13.205, p = .001], “difficulty concentrating” [x2(2, N =31) = 10.809, p = .004], “hopelessness/desperation” [x2(2, N=31) = 15.556, p < .001], and the PTSD indicator questions: “Do you have a sense of leaving your body”, x2(2, N=30) = 9.785, p = .006; and “flashbacks, nightmares or fears”, x2(2, N=31) = 12.56, p = .002 than the non-trafficked group.

Conclusions and Implications: HT victims are a hidden population often encountering a health care professional during the trafficking period. Screening and intervention strategies are needed. Further research is needed on the physical and psychological comorbidity patterns of trafficking victims to facilitate identification, intervention, and treatment strategies.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access



Included in

Nursing Commons