Date of Award


Degree Name

Political Science


College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Shawn Schulenberg

Second Advisor

Marybeth Beller

Third Advisor

Maggie Stone


Commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) are commonly treated as criminals and punished for offenses committed as a result of being trafficked. Recent state-level legislative efforts have sought to prevent minors from being held criminally liable for being commercially sexually exploited. This study offers an analysis of the effects of such laws on the criminalization of CSEC through the use of ordinary least squares (OLS) regression. Data on the number of child arrests for prostitution (1995-2014) and safe harbor laws were collected from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, the Polaris Project website, and the 2015 ECPAT report. The findings of the study suggest that the enactment of safe harbor legislation had no discernible effect on the mean number of annual child arrests. Continued efforts to educate and train relevant actors on the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking are needed. This study offers the first comprehensive evaluation of safe harbor laws in the U.S.


Human trafficking -- United States.

Human trafficking -- Government policy -- United States.