Crossing borders: Does it matter? Differences between (near-)domestic and cross-border sex traffickers, their victims and modus operandi

Suzanne L.J. Kragten-Heerdink*, Steve G.A. van de Weijer, Frank M. Weerman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Hardly any research exists that empirically compares (near-)domestic and cross-border sex trafficking. The few studies that do, are based on relatively small samples, and only represent US data. This study substantially extends the scarce scientific knowledge about the differences between the two types of sex trafficking, based on European data. Our sample consists of all 658 (near-)domestic sex traffickers, and all 424 cross-border sex traffickers, registered by the prosecution service in 2008–2017, who are brought to court in the Netherlands. We collected data on these traffickers from registers of the prosecution service, from a file analyses on the indictments/verdicts, and from registers of Statistics Netherlands. These data provide insight into the characteristics of the traffickers, their victims and modus operandi. Our findings show that significant differences between the two types of sex trafficking exist, which is of great importance for better tailored prevention and identification strategies. The most prominent finding is that the threshold to get involved into (near-)domestic sex trafficking is lower than for cross-border sex trafficking. (Near-)domestic sex traffickers are, compared to cross-border sex traffickers, younger (as are their victims), they seldom need to migrate, they operate on a smaller scale (more one-to-one and for a shorter period of time) and practically never in a criminal organization. Furthermore, they use violent means of coercion to control their victims more frequently than cross-border sex traffickers, which can be interpreted as additional evidence for a less organized practice. These findings contribute to a more complete understanding of sex trafficking, in particular of the traffickers who were seldom the direct subject of research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1761-1783
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal of Criminology
Issue number6
Early online date7 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

In 2013 the Minister of Security and Justice and the Dutch Public Prosecution Service gave permission to collect the data that are required for this study on traffickers. The data based on the registration of the Dutch Public Prosecution Service were provided by the Research and Documentation Centre.

Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2022.

Research programs

  • SAI 2005-04 MSS


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