Donna Hughes, Ph.D.
Eleanor M. & Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair in Women's Studies and Professor at University of Rhode Island
Donna M. Hughes conducts research on human trafficking, particularly the sex trafficking of women and girls. Her research has international scope with studies on Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union; and also includes a local focus of research on the United States, and the state of Rhode Island.
She completed the first studies on the use of information technology for the trafficking of women and girls for the Council of Europe in 2001 and 2002. She has continued to research on new digital information technologies are impacting the sexual exploitation of women and girls. In 2013, she gave the keynote address at the European Union's Annual Anti-Human Trafficking Day Conference in Lithuania; and in 2014, she published a paper on trafficking in human beings in the European Union using communication technologies.
She is currently working with undergraduate students to analyze 1) the criminal background of sex traffickers in Rhode Island; 2) how victims are being identified in cases of sex trafficking in Rhode Island; and 3) how online prostitution advertisements are used to market identified victims of sex trafficking. She frequently writes papers with the students and takes them to conferences to present their work. In 2014, three of her research students won the University of Rhode Island Excellence Award for Undergraduate Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities.
She received the first U.S. grant (with Janice G. Raymond) from the Department of Justice, Violence Against Women Office, to study sex trafficking in the U.S. Later, she received the first U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, grant to study sex trafficking in Ukraine. She completed several research reports for the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons on how "the demand" for victims of sex trafficking drives this criminal activity. She also completed a report on how to identify victims of sex trafficking for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
She teaches courses on international women's issues, sexual violence, human trafficking and slavery, sex trafficking, and feminist theory.
In 2010, she was awarded the University of Rhode Island Council of Research Annual Research Award. Also, in 2010, she was awarded the Norma Hotaling, Josephine Butler Award for "challenging the status quo and creating new abolitionist policy or approach to sex trafficking in the United States."
In 2016, she founded the academic, open access, peer-reviewed journal Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence. She is the Editor-in-Chief.
- PhD (1990) | The Pennsylvania State University
- MA (1977) | The Pennsylvania State University
- BS (1975) | The Pennsylvania State University