HT-RADAR Revived

More than 30 stakeholders from various San Diego and Tijuana (SD/TJ) educational institutions, government offices, and agencies attended HT-RADAR’s first 2016 meeting on April 29. This meeting will be the first of several quarterly meetings, designed to further strengthen collaboration between human trafficking data analysts and researchers working in the SD/TJ region. Agenda topics included: an overview of the Advisory Council and HT-RADAR, the first annual research conference, collaborative approaches to research funding opportunities, and an HT-RADAR membership structure. As HT-RADAR’s first featured speaker, Dr. Monica Ulibarri presented on the findings of two recent studies that looked at the commercial sexual exploitation of adolescent girls in San Diego County. Research that examines the different aspects of human trafficking in the specific contexts of San Diego and Tijuana can have a more direct and immediate impact on local programs, services, and policies through networks such as HT-RADAR.

HT-RADAR’s next meeting: Thursday, July 28
HT-RADAR website with online resources
Community mapping of researchers & data analysts


Bernadette Winter-Villaluz has joined Point Loma Nazarene University’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation (PLNU/CJR) as a Research Associate. She will be responsible for coordinating a centralized networking hub and clearinghouse for human trafficking related research in the SD/TJ region. If you are interested in joining HT-RADAR’s quarterly meetings, receiving HT-RADAR’s quarterly newsletters, and/or helping to design the first annual San Diego County Human Trafficking Research Conference, please contact Bernadette at

Research Highlights

Vulnerability Factors & Pathways Leading to Underage Entry into Sex Work in two Mexican-US Border Cities

Argentina E. Servin, MD, MPH; Kimberly C. Brouwer, PhD; Leah Gordon, MPH; Teresita Rocha-Jimenez, MA; Hugo Staines, MD; Ricardo B. Vera-Monroy, BA; Steffanie A. Strathdee, PhD; Jay G. Silverman, PhD

The current wave of interest in human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children has exposed a lack of knowledge about the vulnerabilities leading to underage entry into sex work. This knowledge is necessary for the development of effective prevention programs to identify girls who are most at-risk, especially in Latin America, a region that is believed to be a large source of persons moved across international borders for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. The objective of this study was to explore and increase understanding of the vulnerability factors and pathways leading to underage entry into sex work experienced by women currently engaging in sex work in two cities on the northern border of Mexico. From August 2013 to October 2014, 20 female sex workers (FSWs) with a history of entry into sex work prior to age 18 were recruited for in-depth interviews from a larger time-location sample of female sex workers (FSWs) participating in a quantitative survey in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. The median age of entry into sex work was 14 (range 10-17); 12/21 participants reported being forced into sex work and, of these, 7 were transported to another city where they began engaging in sex work. Family dysfunction (e.g., domestic violence between parents, parent drug use, neglect, etc.), sexual and physical abuse, and teen pregnancy were among the key themes that emerged as vulnerabilities to underage entry into sex work. Women’s narratives clearly illustrated that the vulnerabilities and pathways leading to underage entry are manifold, complex, and often intersect with each other. Our findings begin to lay the groundwork for understanding the potential vulnerabilities and pathways leading to underage entry into sex, and may have relevance to Latin America in general. This study also provides a foundation for further research to explore what may mitigate these vulnerabilities as well as creating evidence-based interventions to prevent commercial sexual exploitation of minors in the region.

Servin, A. E., Brouwer, K. C., Gordon, L., Rocha-Jimenez, T., Staines, H., Vera-Monroy, R. B., ... & Silverman, J. G. (2015). Vulnerability factors and pathways leading to underage entry into sex work in two Mexican-US border cities. Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children At Risk, 6(1).

Argentina E. Servin, MD, MPH is a Project Scientist at the Division of Global Public Health in the School of Medicine at UCSD. She is a bilingual clinician-researcher who has focused her research on sex-trafficking, HIV prevention, and reproductive health needs among vulnerable underserved women and girls in the US - Mexico border region. Dr. Servin also holds a shared appointment at the Centro de Estudios Universitarios Xochicalco, in the School of Medicine in Tijuana, where she conducts similar research that she combines with her clinical work in urban community health centers across Tijuana.

Sexual Violence & HIV Infection Associated with Adolescent vs. Adult Entry into the Sex Trade

Jay G. Silverman, PhD; Argentina E. Servin, MD, MPH; Shira M. Goldenberg, PhD; Carlos Magis-Rodriguez, MD; Julie Ritter, MPH; Anita Raj, PhD; Kimberly C. Brouwer, PhD

This recently published study by Silverman et al. was conducted from March 2013 to January 2014 in the two border cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The objective of this research was to observe if female sex workers (FSWs) in these cities were more likely to experience violence to force commercial sex and HIV risk when entering the sex industry as adolescents. 603 FSWs over the age of 18 were selected to participate in this study through time-location sampling of various sex work venues. Utilizing confidential computer-assisted surveys, Silverman et al. found that FSWs who entered the sex industry as adolescents: 
  • were more likely to experience violence to force commercial sex,
  • have higher client volumes,  
  • were less likely to use condoms during the first 30 days upon entering the sex industry,
  • and were more likely to be infected with HIV.
Findings also show that more than one in four FSWs entered the sex industry before age of 18. These research findings highlight the need for more effective interventions that protect adolescents from entering the sex industry and that aid those who are currently in the sex trade.   
Silverman, J. G., Goldenberg, S. M., Magis-Rodríguez, C., Ritter, J., Raj, A., & Brouwer, K. C. (2015). Sexual violence and HIV infection associated with adolescent vs adult entry into the sex trade in Mexico. JAMA, 314(5), 516-518.

Jay Silverman, PhD, is Director of Research for the Center on Gender Equity and Health and a Professor of Medicine and Global Public Health at UCSD. He is a leading global researcher on understanding and preventing gender-based violence against adolescent and adult women (e.g., intimate partner violence, sexual violence and sex trafficking). Dr. Silverman is, perhaps, best known for being the world’s leading public health authority on trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation.

Assessment of Risk Factors for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of High Risk Adolescent Girls in San Diego County


Monica Ulibarri, PhD & Emilio Ulloa, PhD
Co-Investigators:  Shira Goldenberg, PhD & Jay Silverman, PhD

Through anonymous semi-structured interviews, Ulibarri, Ulloa, Goldenberg, and Silverman, examined the perspectives of ten adolescent girls with a history of involvement in commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in San Diego County. All research participants were recruited through targeted and snowball sampling. Half of the interviewees were between 15 and 17 years old and the other half were between the ages of 18 and 20. This study was conducted from April 2013 to March 2014 and was funded by the UCSD Health Sciences, Clinical and Translational Research Institute, Academic-Community Partnership Pilot Grant.

Important Findings
  • Running away from home, poverty, and a lack of emotional support are all risk factors for the commercial sexual exploitation of adolescent girls in San Diego County.
  • Study participants made suggestions for the prevention of CSEC, which include:
    • providing appropriate shelter for runaway girls and
    • raising awareness about early warning signs through school programs.
  • Social media is utilized for recruitment and advertising of girls.
  • Other findings regarding prevention, social media, gang involvement, law enforcement, and mental health were drawn through this research.
For more information about this study, please contact Dr. Monica Ulibarri at

Monica Ulibarri, PhD, is a researcher, licensed clinical psychologist, and an Associate Professor in the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, San Diego. She has been awarded various grants including an NIMH Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research. Dr. Ulibarri’s research focuses on HIV prevention in Latino/a communities, with an emphasis on how individual- and relationship-level factors such as mental health, substance use, history of childhood abuse, intimate partner violence, and sexual relationship power intersect with HIV risk behaviors.
Emilio Ulloa, PhD, is a researcher, administrator, and the Director of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs at SDSU. He is also a consultant specializing in survey creation, focus group work, assessment in higher education, program development, and climate studies. Dr. Ulloa’s research emphasis is on the study of relationship violence and violence against women.  

Measuring the Nature & Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego 

Ami Carpenter, PhD & Jamie Gates, PhD
Carpenter and Gates conducted a three-year study, exploring the nexus between gangs and sex trafficking in San Diego County. Mixed-methods were utilized to collect and synthesize data (qualitative and quantitative) from five major sources: (1) a Survivor Services Dataset from a prostitution first offender diversion program, (2) a Survivor Services Dataset from surveys conducted by eight service providers, (3) Law Enforcement Incident Reporting (combined Police arrest records and Sheriff booking datasets), (4) School Focus Groups, and (5) In-depth interviews with individuals involved in – or knowledgeable about – sex trafficking.  In total, data was collected from 1,205 individuals for this study.

Important Findings
  • The underground sex economy represents an estimated $810 million in annual revenue.
  • The scope of commercial sexual exploitation of people (CSEP) in the County is estimated to range from 3,417 - 8,108 per year.
  • 16 years old is the average age of entry into child commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC).
  • Sex trafficking facilitators, victims, and survivors are from all parts of the County and are not exclusive to any group.
  • Other findings regarding the County’s commercial sex economy, the scope and nature of gang involvement in sex trafficking, and the scope and nature of sex trafficking victimization were observed through this study.
For more information about this study, please review the Executive Summary.           
Ami Carpenter, PhD, is a facilitator, trainer, conflict resolution consultant, and an Associate Professor at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at USD. She currently advises Interpeace, the United States Institute of Peace CVE and ARC programs, and the San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention. She is also the Co-Chair for the Research and Data Subcommittee for the San Diego County Human Trafficking and CSEC Advisory Council. Dr. Carpenter’s research focuses on community resilience to violence, and the criminal dimensions of political conflicts.
Jamie Gates, MDiv, PhD, is the Director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation and a Professor of Sociology at PLNU.  He is also the Co-Chair for the Research and Data Subcommittee for the San Diego County Human Trafficking and CSEC Advisory Council. Dr. Gates focuses on issues of immigration and human trafficking, and is the co-author of Living Justice: Revolutionary Compassion in a Broken World (2007) and co-author/editor of  Nurturing the Prophetic Imagination (2012).

Advisory Council
& HT-RADAR Overview

San Diego County Regional Human Trafficking
& CSEC Advisory Council

The San Diego County Regional Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Advisory Council has become a leader in San Diego County’s anti-trafficking work since its establishment in 2011 by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. The Advisory Council was created to ‘compliment' the work of existing agencies and collaborative groups; it was intended, “…to serve as a catalyst toward comprehensive, systemic change addressing human trafficking and CSEC at a county-wide, interdisciplinary level” (San Diego County Regional Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Advisory Council. San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Action Statement. 2011). Below is the Advisory Council's current structure. To learn more about the Advisory Council, please review the San Diego County Regional Human Trafficking & CSEC Advisory Council 2014 Report.


HT-RADAR is an independent, collaborative research environment for SD/TJ region data analysts and researchers who have skills and interests related to human trafficking.  HT-RADAR was launched by Dr. Jamie Gates from Point Loma Nazarene University's Center for Justice and Reconciliation (PLNU/CJR) and is now evolving into a professional network with the following aims:
  • To plan strategically across disciplines and universities;
  • To share data and data sources;
  • To increase research funding for participating members;
  • To impact decision-making in the region with quality research related to human trafficking;
  • To implement ongoing research (i.e. descriptive, exploratory, and outcome) related to victims, perpetrators, and consumers of human trafficking (including sex and labor trafficking).
In order to accomplish these aims, PLNU/CJR operates a centralized clearinghouse for human trafficking related research in the SD/TJ region by:
  • Aggregating regional human trafficking related research;
  • Convening and facilitating collaboration between human trafficking data analysts and researchers working in the region;
  • Facilitating the networking between practitioners, data analysts, and researchers;
  • Identifying potential human trafficking research funding for researchers studying human trafficking in the region;
  • Improving public knowledge of the results of research related to human trafficking across multiple disciplines and sections through regular
    • research updates, and
    • an annual research conference.

San Diego News Highlights

Human Trafficking Assembly Bill 1708 Passes Committee

On April 19, human trafficking legislation by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) passed the Assembly Committee on Public Safety on a bipartisan 60 vote. Under Assembly Bill 1708, California would, for the first time, treat the purchasing and selling of sex as different crimes, allowing for different penalties. This fundamental change allows a wide range of changes to be made which both improve protections for trafficking victims and create stronger deterrents for purchasers who sustain the market for sex trafficking. Testimonies at the Sacramento hearing were provided by San Diego Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan and Dr. Jamie Gates, who is the Director of CJR at PLNU. (From Assemblywoman Gonzalez's Press Releases; view full article here.)

San Diego Coalition Awarded $1M for Human Trafficking Victim Services 

North County Lifeline, the Survivor Leader Network of San Diego, San Diego Youth Services, La Maestra Community Health Centers, GenerateHOPE, Center for Community Solutions, and the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition will receive $500,000 a year for two years to further coordinate and develop services for trafficking victims. North County Lifeline, which initiated the victim services program Project LIFE under Director of Behavioral Health Services, Tamara Marthens, will serve as the lead agency. (From the San Diego Union Tribune; view full article here by Teri Figueroa.) 

Journals, Funding, & Conferences


Journal of Human Rights

Journal of Human Trafficking

Slavery Today

Anti-Trafficking Review

Journal of American Medical Association

Journal on Applied Research on Children

Criminology Journal

Social Problems Journal

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Funding Opportunities

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