The Last Girl Project (LGP) is a project dedicated to understanding the prevalence, drivers, responses, and realities of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in contemporary USA.

Defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, or advertising of a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act involving the exchange of anything of value – money, drugs or a place to stay –child sex trafficking affects families and communities everywhere. Despite the more sensationalized image of child sex trafficking, one where foreign children are sex trafficked into the country, current research actually suggests that this problem is worse for domestic (US born, US citizens) children. Children are being sold for sex in every state in our nation. They are both seen and unseen – at truck stops and in suburban shopping malls, in cities and in rural communities, in poor neighborhoods and in wealthy subdivisions, online or in person.

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Despite domestic minor sex trafficking's ubiquity, where the FBI estimates more than 300,000 children are abused and sometimes lost, every year, there is not enough high-quality, peer-reviewed research regarding this national scourge.

The topic is incredibly complex, and the realities are stark. We can no longer ignore what is happening, and the first critical step toward meaningfully addressing the issue lies in making it understandable – quantitatively and qualitatively. We aim to create a full understanding of the issue so that we can collaborate to create solutions to bring about its end. Tackling this crisis requires a more systematic understanding of its prevalence, dynamics and drivers.
This project aims to add to the ongoing work that’s being done across the country in various academic and non-academic platforms, and hopes to become a place where anyone working to eliminate domestic minor sex trafficking & commercial sexual exploitation of children in the USA can go to find reliable and consistent data and analysis on this problem.
We hope this work will:

  1. Develop a shared understanding of the ecology of domestic minor sex trafficking in the United States including its prevalence, location and drivers by sharing all data collected.
  2. Provide a space for those working to eradicate domestic child minor sex trafficking resource and those supporting survivors and victims to share best practices and learn of latest research findings and policy developments.
  3. Contribute through robust research to ongoing efforts to eradicate this injustice.

Research Leadership


102 West Duke Building
PO Box 90432
Durham, NC 27708

Suzanne Shanahan, Principle Investigator
Suzanne Shanahan is Nannerl O. Keohane Director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics and Associate Research Professor in Sociology. Suzanne also oversees DukeEngage, the university’s signature civic engagement program, and ran the DukeEngage-Dublin program for 11 years. Additionally, she directs the Kenan Refugee Project, a 6-country, community-based project on forced migration. Her current research focuses on forced migration and moral responsibility. More specifically, Suzanne’s work explores the impact of displacement on refugee well-being and moral boundaries before and after resettlement with particular focus on Bhutanese, Iraqi and Syrian refugees. This community-based research is a collaboration with communities both in the Middle East and with newcomer communities in North Carolina. Other work explores the dynamics of racial collective action in the United States and Europe. She is recipient of the Robert B. Cox Distinguished Teaching Award and the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award. Suzanne received her PhD from Stanford University.


Headshot of Tra Tran

Tra Tran, Project Director
Tra Tran is the Program Director of the Human Rights Center. She manages two vertically integrated research programs, the Kenan Refugee Project (KRP) and the Last Girl Project (LGP). KRP examines the contemporary dynamics of displacement, working with refugee and asylum seeking communities globally. LGP focuses on examining the drivers of domestic minor sex trafficking, working to understanding this problem to inform policies on all levels of governance.

Tra started working with the Kenan Institute for Ethics as an undergraduate, traveling to Jordan collecting life stories with refugees through the Duke Immerse program in 2014. After graduating Duke with a double major in psychology and cultural anthropology, she worked as a research associate for KRP and completed a master’s of science at DGHI before returning to the Kenan Institute as the Program Director of the Human Rights Center. She’s interested in the intersections of trauma, child development, resilience, governance, and resilience on all levels of life, from the individual to the multi-lateral.

Project Researchers



Sara Kate Baudhuin
My name is Sara Kate (SK) Baudhuin and I’m originally from Charlotte, NC. I’m a junior at Duke majoring in a Program II titled, “Storytelling as a Tool for Social Change” that explores the intersection of narrative and activism. Investigating an issue like domestic minor sex trafficking by way of stories is a particularly helpful way to understand patterns, which is why I was drawn to the narrative-based nature of the Last Girl Project.



Maya Blake
My name is Maya Blake and I am a rising Senior at Duke University from Falls Church, Virginia. I am a double major in History and Global health and I am also a member of the Duke Women’s Rowing team. I have always loved conducting research and that is why I first sought out being a part of the Last Girl Project. This project is a very special and impactful one and I am very appreciative of the opportunity to be a part of this team.



Sophia Chimbanda
My name is Sophia Chimbanda and I currently reside in Peachtree Corners, a suburb in the metro-Atlanta area. I’m a rising sophomore interested in public policy, human rights, and restorative justice. I chose to do the Last Girl Project because domestic minor sex trafficking is often very intertwined in so many other systemic issues and injustices in the USA, yet there isn’t a lot of attention or research directed towards understanding and stopping domestic minor sex trafficking.


Tamira Daniely
My name is Tamira Daniely and I am from Phoenix, Arizona. I am a rising junior at Duke University double majoring in Global Health and Public Policy. My specific interests lie in human rights at the intersection of reproductive health, mental health, and prison policy. I was inspired to join the Last Girl Project through my passion for human rights and social justice. Individuals who are sex trafficked, especially minors, often take a backseat when it comes to agenda-setting in the United States. Not to mention that over my years of taking various policy and human rights courses, trafficking is seldom brought up even though it is a very prevalent issue. This marginalized population lacks a political voice and research like the Last Girl Project amplifies their voice, that is why I felt motivated to participate.



Caroline Doherty
My name is Caroline Doherty and I’m from Greenville, NC. I am a senior majoring in Public Policy, minoring in Global Health, and I’m completing the pre-med requirements. I joined the Last Girl Project because this work is producing reliable statistics and research that can be used to inform policy changes with the goal of eradicating sex trafficking.



Ruth Fetaw
My name is Ruth Fetaw and I am from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’m majoring in Public Policy with a minor in Global Health. I wanted to be a part of the Last Girl Project, because I know how critical it is to create a platform through research to educate others on sex trafficking in the United States.


Nali Julia Gillespie
I am a third year medical student at Duke University SOM who is originally from Southern California. I attended Duke for my undergraduate studies where I designed my own major on the intersection of health and conflict in the Middle East. As an undergraduate I was involved with Kenan Institute for Ethics with multiple projects on refugee issues Before attending medical school, I taught elementary English and high school science classes in Nablus, Palestine. I am passionate about advocating for equity and justice in medicine and I hope to eventually pursue residency in medicine/pediatrics. In medical school, I have been working on a project on the history of maternal and neonatal care in Durham, NC during the era of desegregation.  My interests in the Last Girl Project stem for my belief that future healthcare providers have a duty to work towards a better world for the communities they care for- and that particularly includes vulnerable youth.



Hamza Mohamoud
My name is Hamza Mohamoud and I am a rising Duke University senior and a researcher on the Last Girl Project. My studies in Public Policy and Global Health influenced my reasons for joining the project; I am interested in the intersection between policy and health. I honestly did not know much about human and sex trafficking before joining the research team. Luckily, this opportunity has been an important learning experience on an issue I plan on working to end in the future. One fun fact about me: my first name has the word “ham” in it, my last name has the word “ham” in it, my initials are ham, but I do not eat ham!



Eleanor “Elle” Strand
I am a senior undergraduate at Duke University majoring in Biology and Global Health with a minor in Chemistry. I’ve worked on global health projects across the globe, but not in my home country, the United States. The domestic focus of the Last Girl Project therefore interested me, along with the focus on a long-standing passion of mine: human trafficking and migration. There is a general unawareness of human trafficking in most communities here and not enough accurate, empirical literature/data on the trafficking of minors. I am grateful to be a part of the push to end child trafficking and truly enjoy the work.