Mechanisms of recruitment into sex trafficking operations: a systematic review

Lauren Martin, Cynthia Matthias, Stephen Abeyta, Matthew Kafafian, Kelle Barrick, Amy Farrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sex trafficking is a global human rights issue and a form of violence with numerous health and mental health sequelae. This systematic review synthesised the global literature on recruitment into sex trafficking to describe what we know and identify gaps. We identified 5,526 articles, subjected 340 to full-text review, and only 34 met inclusion/exclusion criteria. We found that the empirical literature on recruitment into trafficking is unclear and many studies lack empirical rigour. The literature base lacks detail about tactics employed in the initial recruitment phase and does not differentiate between recruitment and ongoing control of victims. There are many studies on trafficking vulnerabilities, but the literature is weak on how and when traffickers leverage vulnerabilities, and how structural conditions shape effectiveness of trafficking recruitment mechanisms in particular settings. This systematic review highlights a need for more targeted research on the initial recruitment phase of trafficking and research with traffickers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-262
Number of pages24
JournalGlobal Crime
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • human trafficking
  • recruitment
  • Sex trafficking
  • systematic review


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