Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication & Theatre Arts


Lifespan and Digital Communication

Committee Director

Thomas Socha

Committee Member

Gary Beck

Committee Member

Randy Gainey


The problem of human trafficking is global, affecting men and women, adults, and children, with exploitation of various forms including (but not limited to) sex work, hospitality and entertainment, labor, agriculture, soldiering, forced begging and organ removal. While it has been the focus of movies, news articles, documentaries, legislation and research, the discussion of the communication surrounding human trafficking is still in the formative stages. What is the messaging about human trafficking in legislation, both historically and in the present day, and how did news and popular media help to frame the discourse around trafficking in the United States? Using the framework of the Muted Groups Theory (Ardener, 1975), a series of interviews were conducted with anti-human trafficking advocates to discuss their organizational interactions with formerly trafficked people, including the barriers to effective communication, cultural understandings and misconceptions of human trafficking, and the way trafficking stories are told with respect to the empowerment and healing of the formerly trafficked. Through a discourse analysis, dominant themes were used to create a conceptual model of human trafficking communication to further the conversation to determine the next steps in combatting this worldwide problem in an effective and respectful way.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).