Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is a form of modern day slavery and is one of the most hidden means of child abuse in the United States. In response to encountering the reality of this abuse and exploitation of our children, multidisciplinary professionals in Kansas were impassioned to develop and implement collaborative practices, community-based research, and law and policy in order to combat trafficking. This paper presents a summary of such efforts that, expanding over a decade, have culminated in a new Kansas Anti-Trafficking Law. A brief summary of the definitions and demographics of trafficking are provided followed by a discussion of the collaborative multidisciplinary practice and research efforts that occurred in the largest city in Kansas. With an understanding that it was these works that empowered a statewide paradigm shift and thus, ultimately led to policy development, a comparative summary of key Anti-Trafficking legislation is then reviewed. In conclusion, this paper offers recommendations for others who wish to combat trafficking in their own communities.

Key Take Away Points

  1. The issue of human trafficking and DMST must be addressed as an issue of human dignity, peace, and social justice. It is rooted in a history of racial, sex, age and class inequality and combating trafficking means to address the reality of such oppression and exploitation.
  2. In order to address any social justice issue, particularly that of human trafficking, there must first be a shift in language. Such linguistic changes guide the path for the way in which people view, and thus respond to, the issue of domestic sex trafficking.
  3. It is important for those who are survivor-leaders and/or have a direct experience with the social issue to lead the way. Whether working with young people, the aging population, women, people of color, or any other vulnerable population, it is critical to have appropriate representation in positions of leadership. Having survivor-leaders and direct practitioners with a connection to domestic sex trafficking helps to illustrate the reality of sexual subjugation, provides a visual representation of the capacity for survivors to recover from and thrive in spite of their victimization; and increases community passion, energy, and accountability.
  4. The issue of human trafficking is too large to combat alone. Addressing social issues takes multidisciplinary collaborations at the local, state, regional, and federal level.
  5. Efforts to combat human trafficking must be multidimensional and holistic in nature. From prevention and intervention to aftercare, efforts must include improved identification and assessment tools, social service practice techniques, and community supports. Such efforts can only occur in contexts that respond to, are guided by, and accountable to, survivor-centered practice, research, and law.
  6. Formalized law can define and institutionalize effective and efficient practices that respond to the safety and holistic health of our children and youth, particularly those at-risk for or subjugated to domestic minor sex trafficking.

Author Biography

Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm, LMSW, PhD, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Combating Human Trafficking and an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Wichita State University. After her own experiences of life on the street, she began her career as a street outreach worker serving runaway and homeless youth through a not-for-profit nongovernmental organization at the age of 16. Since this time, Dr. Roswurm has served as a forerunner in the anti-trafficking movement in Kansas. She founded ASERCA, the first multidisciplinary team combatting human trafficking in Kansas, in 2005; and has advanced broad-based community awareness and human trafficking prevention programming through use with her Lotus Prevention for ProsperityTM Curriculum, provided multidisciplinary training and technical assistance regarding effective identification and intervention strategies through use of her Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking - Risk and Resilience AssessmentTM (DMST-RRA), and empowered methods of trauma-informed direct-practices for professionals who serve young people who are subjugated to, and/or who have survived, sex trafficking through use of her Lotus Victim to VitalityTM Program Model. Today, Dr. Roswurm has more than two decades of professional practice with children and youth at-risk of and/or subjugated to domestic minor sex trafficking. A sample of her practice, research, and advocacy interests include runaway and homeless youth, human trafficking, trauma and resiliency, demoralizing systems of care, survivor-led practices, and the power of breastfeeding on bonding and early childhood development. To learn more about Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm and the Wichita State University, Center for Combating Human Trafficking visit http://combatinghumantrafficking.org or email Karen.countryman-roswurm@wichita.edu.

Bailey Patton Brackin, LMSW, is the Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Combating Human Trafficking at Wichita State University. She has served three years in the anti-trafficking movement -- providing direct-practice therapeutic services, facilitating research and education, and engaging in advocacy. Her research interests include domestic minor sex trafficking, childhood trauma, youth resiliency factors, and youth mentoring. To learn more about Bailey Patton Brackin and the Wichita State University, Center for Combating Human Trafficking visit http://combatinghumantrafficking.org or email baileypatton81@gmail.com.


We would like to acknowledge Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, and all the multidisciplinary practitioners of ASERCA for their great works in the anti-trafficking movement. Thank you for assisting in the development, passing, and implementation of a law that will hold our communities in Kansas accountable thus providing us with healthier neighborhoods and healthier children. Special gratitude is extended to Risa Rehmert and Officer Kent Bauman -- even before human trafficking was a "buzz topic" and even though you rarely receive adequate recognition -- your genuine commitment to serving those who are vulnerable and marginalized is unmatched. Thank you for serving our children.