Sex Trafficking Attitudes Scale

The Sex Trafficking Attitudes Scale is a 33-item self-reported measure of individual attitudes toward sex trafficking, consisting of six domains: Attitudes Toward Ability to Leave Sex Trafficking, Efficacy to Reduce Sex Trafficking, Knowledge about Sex Trafficking, Empathetic Reactions Toward Sex Trafficking, Attitudes Toward Helping Survivors, and Awareness of Sex Trafficking. Different aspects of sex trafficking attitudes captured by the scale include understanding causes of sex trafficking and perception of one’s ability to help trafficked persons.


Geographies Tested: United States of America

Populations Included: Female, Male

Age Range: Adolescents, Adults


Attitudes Toward Ability to Leave Sex Trafficking

1. A trafficked person has the ability to leave her circumstances. (R)
2. It is not a person’s choice to be trafficked 3. Some women choose to be trafficked. (R)
4. Some girls choose to be trafficked. (R)
5. A trafficked person could go to the police, but she chooses not to. (R)
6. If a trafficked person chose to leave, the problem would be over. (R)
7. A person who is trafficked has been deceived or forced into the situation.

Efficacy to Reduce Sex Trafficking

8. I can make a difference for trafficked persons.
9. I have the ability to work against trafficking through political involvement.
10. I am able to raise public awareness about trafficking.
11. I can address structural inequalities and barriers facing trafficked persons.
12. I feel inadequate to help trafficked persons. (R)
13. I feel helpless to assist trafficked persons. (R)
14. I feel powerless to help people who have been trafficked. (R)

Knowledge About Sex Trafficking

15. A person is trafficked if she is kidnapped and employed in the sex industry. 16. A person is trafficked when someone uses fraud to employ her in the sex industry.
17. A person is trafficked when someone uses coercion to employ her in the sex industry.
18. A prostitute can become trafficked if she is restrained from leaving her occupation.
19. Someone under the age of 18 who works in the sex industry is trafficked.

Empathic Reactions Toward Sex Trafficking

20. I am angry about the issue of trafficking.
21. I empathize with trafficked persons.
22. I become emotional thinking about trafficking.
23. Trafficking does not upset me. (R)
24. I do not care much about the issue of trafficking. (R)

Attitudes Toward Helping Survivors

25. If it is for the trafficked individual’s own good, an outsider should do whatever is needed to make decisions for the trafficked person. (R)
26. An outsider should make whatever decisions are needed about a trafficked person’s daily living when the trafficked person doesn’t seem to care what is done. (R)
27. Even if a trafficked person objects, an outsider should do whatever they think is best for the trafficked individual in the long run. (R)

Awareness of Sex Trafficking

28. I am aware of organizations that work against trafficking.
29. I have heard about sex trafficking in the news.
30. I have read about sex trafficking.
31. I have seen public awareness announcements about sex trafficking.
32. I am not informed about sex trafficking. (R)
33. I do not understand the issues surrounding sex trafficking. (R)

Response Options:
6-point Likert scale
Strongly disagree - 1
Strongly agree - 6

Scoring Procedures

Reverse coding is necessary for some items to ensure that scores indicate the same direction for all variables. (R) indicates the item is reverse coded.

Original Citation

Houston-Kolnik, J. D., Todd, N. R., & Wilson, M. (2016). Preliminary validation of the sex trafficking attitudes scale. Violence against women, 22(10), 1259-1281.

Psychometric Score

Ease of Use Score

Scoring breakdown

Formative Research

Qualitative Research

Existing Literature/Theoretical Framework

Field Expert Input

Cognitive Interviews / Pilot Testing








Criterion (gold-standard)



Ease of Use


Scoring Clarity


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