Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School




Program or Major

Anthropology and Justice Studies

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Casey Golomski


Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery that operates on the premise of exploitation, such as forced prostitution and labor, and organ trafficking. This is a global industry resulting in billions. Despite the current global pandemic, COVID-19, putting a halt to many livelihoods around the world, human trafficking will persist, but in conditions that are potentially more harmful for the victims. Victims of trafficking are in an increasingly vulnerable position, and it is important to establish possible mechanisms to protect as many victims and potential victims as possible. Typical risk factors (i.e., poverty, state’s interest vs. individual interest, unemployment) are emphasized in the United States, leading to the possibility of higher rates of trafficking with the added risk of a pandemic. Across the country, rates of domestic violence (DV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) have drastically increased. Statistics regarding human trafficking are difficult to produce as it is still considered a new crime, prosecution is slim, legislation varies state-by-state, and the populations are hidden due to much of the work being done in the informal sector. Unlike DV and IPV, many traffickers prey for their victims on the internet. In situations where we feel vulnerable is where a trafficker thrives. With job loss, they will provide employment, shelter, food, among the various basic needs that are necessary for survival. The trafficker becomes the support system, and in many cases, the victim does not even see this as exploitative. Many victims of trafficking are unaware of their situations, as they have received some level of stability from their trafficker, noting the prominence of a trafficker’s deception. The risks associated with the COVID-19 lockdown, such as isolation and unemployment, create a double-edged sword, where all people are more vulnerable to trafficking, yet many are still unaware of what trafficking is. As traffickers are so versed in extrapolating vulnerability, and their tactics are so flexible, I pondered how the anti-trafficking industry adjusted to help victims during COVID-19.

Eight interviews were conducted with key players in the human trafficking industry, discussing the health and human rights of victims of trafficking during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also conducted observations at two webinars that were on the topic of human trafficking during COVID-19. Each interview was transcribed and thematically coded based on qualitative findings. My findings illustrated that victims of trafficking are at a disadvantage if attempting to escape their trafficker during COVID-19. The pandemic has created isolation, limiting the victim from accessing resources and being identified as a victim by others. Masks, as well as telehealth, has created a barrier to disclosure, as well as a sense of depersonalization between victim and advocate. Education efforts from non-governmental organizations have also slowed due to the increased emphasis on managing daily operations during the pandemic. Support is needed from the state of New Hampshire in order to better identify and assist victims of trafficking.