Research informs our work.

A large part of our work comes from informed research collected in the field, which helps our team, along with our many partners, remain on the cutting edge of technology. Connect with important resources and check out our latest research, along with research from our partners.

Latest Research

Survivor Insights:
The Role of Technology in Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking

In an effort to strategically inform technology initiatives for combating domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST), Thorn partnered with Dr. Vanessa Bouché at Texas Christian University to survey survivors about their experiences. The survey focused on understanding what role technology played in a victim’s recruitment into, time while in, and exit from DMST.

260 survivors of DMST, through 24 survivor organizations, spanning 14 states, completed the survey. Their insights keep us grounded in the reality and complexity of their experience so that the best interventions can be developed to defend children from sexual abuse.

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NEW! Production & Active Trading of Child Sexual Exploitation Images Depicting Identified Victims

Thorn partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and an expert research team led by Dr. Michael Seto, to develop knowledge that can be used to assist law enforcement in identifying child pornography victims and intervening in ongoing sexual exploitation and abuse cases. Analyzing over a decade of victim and offender data, we aimed to gain insight into trends within offending and to better understand the characteristics of children who are victimized along with their relationships with those who have sexually abused them. Central research questions focus on exploring differences in familial and non-familial cases, connections between child pornography content and contact sexual offending, and geographic and temporal patterns.

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Sextortion: Findings from 2015 and 2017 Victim Surveys

Sextortion is a growing problem, with multiple online platforms being used to help facilitate this crime. With so little data known about the dynamics of this crime, we set out to learn more from those directly impacted. In an effort to better understand the threat of sextortion and its impact on children, teens, and young adults, Thorn partnered with the Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC) at the University of New Hampshire in 2015 to conduct a first of its kind online survey of 1,631 persons ages 18 to 25 that have been targets of sextortion. In 2017, Thorn set out to update and expand our understanding of sextortion, expanding participation to include 13-25 year olds, 2,097 responded. Our goal with both surveys was to provide useful, accessible information about the dynamics of online episodes involving extortion of sexual images and related crimes against children and adolescents. We hope our findings will be able to inform further research and the development of interventions to disrupt, discourage and prevent online extortion of sexual images and related crimes against minors.

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Invisible Offenders: A Study Estimating Online Sex Customers

In an effort to better understand the extent of demand from online sex advertisements, Thorn partnered with the Arizona Statue University (ASU) Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, along with law enforcement, to increase operational knowledge. Invisible Offenders: A Study Estimating Online Sex Customers seeks to develop a comprehensive research agenda related to exploring the demand for commercial sex in the United States.

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The Use of Technology to Recruit, Groom and Sell Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims

With our report on the Use of Technology to Recruit, Groom and Sell Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims, we set out to learn directly from victims how technology was used throughout their trafficking situation. This insight allows us, and others in the field, to create more well-informed programs that speak directly to victims needs.

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From Abused and Neglected to Abused and Exploited

This report takes a deeper dive into the link between the child welfare system and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The paper highlights many of the issues faced by the child welfare system in addressing the problem, possible risk factors and vulnerabilities, and recommendations and opportunities for the technology sector. This is a valuable resource for those working in each of these fields, as well as a road map for ways the technology sector can get involved in tackling the issue.

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The Employee Resilience Guidebook for Handling Child Sexual Abuse Images

This guidebook from the The Technology Coalition gives technology companies a high-level summary of obligations to report apparent child abuse imagery on their platforms. This resource also includes key practices and guidelines for safe handling and reporting as well as employee support in this arena.

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Advancing our knowledge supports the work we do and informs our vision.