The Data Project Summary

"There is inadequate data on human trafficking in Michigan. Without accurate data, it is impossible to measure the prevalence of Michigan based trafficking activities or evaluate the effectiveness of programs intended to end human trafficking"











- 2013 Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking

Through appreciative inquiry with professionals and individuals across service sectors this research team is using this groundbreaking research on the prevalence of sex trafficking in Grand Rapids to format and implement data driven solutions. The aim of the qualitative interviews has been to assess the work in all spheres to stop trafficking and identify barriers to its reduction. This new insight has led to more opportunities to develop additional research, and cross sector collaboration, to assist organizations and agencies to build preventative and evaluative services to end exploitation.

Indicators of sex trafficking were used to analyze data gathered from two main sources in Grand Rapids, Michigan: September and October of 2016.

1. Publicly available websites that are dedicated to the commercial sex industry - 355 unique commercial sex advertisements, collected from, in the Escort section.

2. 125 surveys completed by individuals who are exploited through the commercial sex industry.


Online Commercial Sexual Service Advertisement statistics: 

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 •    50% of the individuals advertised online show evidence of experiencing commercial sexual exploitation.

•    Estimates over 1,000 new individuals a year will be commercially sexually exploited online in the escort advertisements on, now in the WomenForMen category.


•    The online advertisement locations largely reported 2 locations/areas in Grand Rapids, 28th Street and Interstate. 96, near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, and 28th Street and US Highway 131, near Division Avenue.

 •    There is a strong link through online data collection of exploited individuals to other cities and States: Detroit, Lansing/Jackson, Muskegon and Kalamazoo.

 •    60% of younger advertisements revealed evidence of being transient.


 •    56% of the ads that used third-party language also showed evidence of being youthful.


•    Younger ads showed higher rates of control in exploitative relationships.

•    The younger ads are more connected to other ads.  

•    Younger ages listed in the ads makeup 62% ads that are connected to other ads.  

•    An additional 56 ads, that were listed above the age of 23 were connected to an ad with an age below 23.  

•    There are 25 ads that show evidence of third party control, it is an indicator that points directly to trafficking.


•    65% of minorities were listed as under the age of 23, significantly younger than the total average.

•    Minorities are almost twice as likely to show evidence of being transient than their white counterpart.

Interviews with individuals currently working in the commercial sex industry statistics: 

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•    63% of 125 individuals interviewed, reported being controlled by a trafficker and 31% named control at the hands of a gang or organized crime.


•    90% of those interviewed reported entry into the commercial sex industry before the age of 18

•    15.2 years old is the average age of entry into the commercial sex trade based on our findings


•    87% of 18 to 24 year-olds in the survey research, list a controlling relationship facilitating their involvement in commercial sexual exploitation.

•    77% of all ages reported being controlled by a trafficker.


•    60% of individuals who were interviewed in person who are engaged in the commercial sex industry were minorities, 46% black, 12% Latina, 40% white. 


•    100% of those interviewed reported experiencing violence during exploitation or sex work.  

•    95% of these individuals reported violence at the hand of a buyer.

•    80% experienced violence specifically from a trafficker or pimp.  


•    86% reported trying to access medical service.

Substance Abuse

•    91% abuse alcohol, 76% abuse Heroin and opiates, 70% prescription drugs, and 56% crack/cocaine

Barriers to accessing service 

•    100% of individuals who were interviewed and are engaged in the commercial sex trade, reported experiencing barriers to accessing services.  


•    56% of those who were interviewed listed housing as a main need to get free from exploitation.