Helms School of Government
Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice (PhD)
Homeland Security, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking, Child Sex Trafficking, South Carolina, Law Enforcement
Terry, Alton B., "Law Enforcement Perceptions and Responses Regarding Child Sex Trafficking Victims in South Carolina" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4635.
Despite the new wave of laws and victim advocate services implemented to treat all children involved in sex trafficking as victims, many law enforcement officers have some difficulty in identifying potential victims of child sex trafficking. The purpose of the study was to understand how law enforcement officers perceive child sex trafficking victims in South Carolina and how law enforcement officers respond to child sex trafficking victims in South Carolina based on those perceptions. The theory that guided the study was Becker’s (1963) labeling theory. This multiple case study investigated how law enforcement officers perceive child sex trafficking victims in South Carolina and how law enforcement officers respond to child sex trafficking victims in South Carolina based on those perceptions. The data collection method used for this study was individual interviews. Individual interviews were utilized to answer the three research questions. Data analysis occurred through a triangulation process consisting of analyzing logged data for consistent patterns and themes. Triangulation provided validity of the data analysis. The findings of this study showed that law enforcement is beginning to change their perceptions and how they respond to child sex trafficking victims in South Carolina. The participants viewed all potential victims as victims while a few viewed them as victims and offenders. The findings also showed that services are provided to potential victims, but victims are still hesitant to cooperate with law enforcement due to the fear of being prosecuted or retaliated against This study was guided by Becker’s (1963) labeling theory which correlated with existing research labeling young victims as offenders. This study also showed an increase in law enforcement treating child sex trafficking victims as victims.