Arts & Letters


M.A. Lifespan & Digital Communication

Publication Date



“Human trafficking,” defined as, “a commercial . . . act . . . the result of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion or any combination of such means” (President’s Interagency Task Force, 2016, p. 2) is a problem in the United States and internationally. Human trafficking, defined by the same task force, is a crime that includes sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, and labor trafficking which consists of bonded labor, debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced child labor, and in some cases, the recruitment or use of child soldiers. Although it is important to raise societal awareness of this crime, it is my contention news outlets, social media and popular media have resulted in a distorted societal understanding about human trafficking as something happening “out there” and positions members of society as passive bystanders (Bellenger, 2016; Latane & Darley, 1969). My research seeks to re-orient the national discussion about human trafficking from a lifespan communication perspective by asking, “How can society best communicate with the trafficked (victims) so as to help those whose voices have been silenced?” Using the lens of Muted Group Theory (Ardener, 1975), those who are trafficked demonstrate that going forward a primary focus of inquiry and advocacy should be on communication between societal advocacy groups that specifically focus on the prevention of human trafficking and those who are trafficked. In general, my research attempts to unpack historical communication problems about human trafficking and sheds light on the communication between advocates and formerly trafficked people as a critical part in its prevention.





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Muted Groups Theory in Human Trafficking



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