Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Tara F. Deubel, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Dinorah Martinez Tyson, Ph.D., MPH

Committee Member

Heide Castañeda, Ph.D., MPH

Committee Member

Mary Armstrong, Ph.D., MBA


domestic minor sex trafficking, safe harbor


“Human trafficking” has become part of the everyday lexicon in the United States and globally over the last fifteen years. The issue has made its way into political platforms, scholarly work, church congregations, and international aid agendas. Florida is currently recognized as third in the nation for number of cases of human trafficking. This thesis employs ethnographic interviews and observations to understand one portion of Florida’s human trafficking problem referred to as domestic minor sex trafficking. This type of trafficking affects mostly teenage girls from marginalized populations, such as those that have experienced the child welfare system, homelessness, and impoverished circumstances. In 2013 the state passed the Florida Safe Harbor Act, modeled after the New York State Safe Harbour for Exploited Children Act, to address the needs of this population through legislation. The Act specifies certain policy and procedural changes, as well as the role of the Department of Children and Families. Further, it prohibits minors from facing prostitution charges, recognizing that they cannot consent to commercial sex because of their age.

This study investigates the Safe Harbor Act’s impact on agencies and the public in terms of raising awareness about domestic minor sex trafficking. With no immediate funding attached to the bill, or dedicated in the state budget, Florida is still struggling to provide adequate care for this population. In addition to policy analysis, this study examined existing services, assessed current needs in the field, and created an interactive map to locate services for professionals working in the field. While Florida has clearly improved its ability to manage these cases over the last three years, there is still much work to be done to address domestic minor sex trafficking. Based on these findings, this thesis offers recommendations for policy and further research on successful practices in working with this population’s specific needs.