How Do Traumatic Events Shape the Decision-Making of LGBTQ Youth in NYC to Engage in the Commercial Sex Market?


This project has implications for practice. Findings have the potential to highlight the traumatic events that may contribute to sexual and gender minority youths’ decisions to engage in survival sex. In addition, the findings may help demonstrate why it is important for mental health practitioners, law enforcement professionals, and community programs to use trauma-informed approaches when interacting with these youths.

Associated faculty

Edward Alessi

Edward Alessi, Principal Investigator

Dr. Alessi is an associate professor in the School of Social Work. His research aims to improve understanding of stress and trauma among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations and enhance clinical practice with LGBT and other marginalized populations. In June 2017, he was named Rutgers Chancellor’s Scholar, an award created to support faculty excellence at the Associate Professor level. His research has been published in journals such as Psychological TraumaChild Abuse & NeglectPsychotherapy, Psychotherapy Research, and The Journal of Sex Research. Dr. Alessi’s current projects examine how stress and trauma influence the integration experiences of LGBT immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He served as guest editor for the Clinical Social Work Journal’s first special issue on Clinical Practice with LGBTQ Populations. Dr. Alessi has also been recognized for his teaching. He was awarded the Rutgers University Presidential Fellowship for Teaching Excellence in 2017. In addition, he received the Outstanding Professor of the Year Award four years in a row (2013-16). A clinical social worker since 2001, he has worked primarily in outpatient mental health and has been an independent practitioner since 2004.

Meredith Dank

Meredith Dank, Co-Principal Investigator

Meredith Dank is a Research Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her areas of focus include the commercial sex economy, human trafficking, teen dating violence, LGBTQ issues, victimization, and qualitative methods. She served as principal investigator on several human trafficking studies funded by the Department of Justice, including a study that measured the underground commercial sex economy in the United States, and another that documented the experiences of LGBTQ youth, young men who have sex with men and young women who have sex with women engaged in survival sex and their interactions with the criminal justice system. An expert in human trafficking, Dr. Dank has conducted research in over ten countries and took part in a White House stakeholder meeting on services for survivors. Her work particularly in TDV, working with LGBTQ youth, and research methodologies for accessing difficult-to-reach populations will offer key expertise for the Consortium.