Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Kelly, Kimberly C.

Committee Member

Rader, Nicole E.

Committee Member

Hagerman, Margaret Ann

Committee Member

Allison, Rachel

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Sociology


For this dissertation, I conduct an ethnography of three antitrafficking programs; interview 38 activists and survivors of trafficking; and analyze organizational texts, websites, and social media. I examine the history of the antitrafficking movement. Among the three organizations, activists provide housing; food, clothing, and hygiene items; medical services; mental health services and counseling; mentorship; education for survivors; a 24-hour hotline; outreach; case management and referrals; training for law enforcement; a drop-in center; and education and awareness events. I examine activists’ diagnostic, prognostic, and motivational framing of sex trafficking, and other framing tactics, such as frame alignment, frame diffusion, frame resonance, and cycles of protest. Activists within the three organizations connect sex trafficking to the Atlantic Slave Trade, referring to human trafficking as “modern-day slavery.” Activists also frame trafficking as happening in “our own backyards;” happening primarily to girls and women; and conflate sex work and sex trafficking. Activists believe that sex trafficking is caused by childhood sexual abuse, pornography and pornography addiction, and systems of oppression. I find that evangelical Christianity influences the organizations through services for survivors, training for staff and the public, the recruitment of staff and volunteers at church, and the practice of Christianity in front of and with survivors. I also find that evangelical activists employ language and strategies that cast them as white saviors seeking to ‘rescue’ survivors. There are several factors that have contributed to the success of the antitrafficking movement, such as increased political opportunities, resource mobilization, effective leadership, strategic use of grievances, and cultural context. Activists face several challenges in their work, namely lack of funding and resources, like housing. For the future, activists would like to see increased punishment of clients and traffickers; reductions in pornography and pornography addiction; increased education and awareness about trafficking; installation of survivors in leadership; and increased funding. I conclude by recommending that sex work and sex trafficking be distinguished in research, legislation, policies, and practice; rehabilitation of traffickers and clients; and make systematic changes to lessen the factors which contribute to trafficking.