Date of Award

Spring 6-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department/Program

Forensic Mental Health Counseling

Language

English

First Advisor

Chitra Raghavan

Second Reader

Sean Murphy

Third Advisor

Kendra Doychak

Abstract

The importance of coercive control tactics in maintaining women in commercial sex has been well-documented. Less known is how these tactics manifest in long-term relationships and how victims cope or react to establish patterns of control. The current study measured the temporal patterning of coercive control in long term sex trafficking relationships via wiretapped phone conversations between pimps and sex trafficked workers. In addition, victim responses of compliance versus resistance to coercive control tactics were measured. 68 phone calls over four months were transcribed and coded between two pimps and four women working in commercial sex. The findings indicate that coercion was pervasive and extended to all domains of the women’s lives. As predicted, tactics of microregulation and surveillance dominated, with occasional instances of intimidation and aggression. As further predicted, higher levels of intimidation by the trafficker were correlated with higher instances of resistance and higher levels of surveillance and microregulation were correlated with higher levels of compliance. While women occasionally resisted, the power imbalance did not shift over time, with the pimps continuing to maintain control in all aspects of the women’s lives. The implications of the research are far-reaching as they confirm in real-time the temporal patterns of coercive control as marked by long periods of compliance, or “exhaustion phases,” interspersed with rarer instances of aggressive, coercive tactics that elicit resistance in victims.

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