Thousands of massage parlors are fronts for commercial sex and sex trafficking, and Ieke de
Vries is using her computational skills to understand what predicts illicit activity in these
parlors. De Vries, a computational social scientist from The Netherlands who spent three years
working for a Dutch anti-trafficking organization, came to Northeastern in 2015 to work in the
Violence and Justice Research Laboratory with Associate Professor Amy Farrell, a human
trafficking expert. They helped develop a database for the Children’s Advocacy Center in Boston
to track youths at risk for becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
As a doctoral candidate in criminology and criminal justice, de Vries is digging into public databases
and online client reviews, as well as working with law enforcement officials, to study some
3,000 massage businesses in Massachusetts, Washington state, and Texas that may engage in
human trafficking. With dissertation research funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, she
hopes to understand how these parlors are connected and to develop strategies to illuminate
where commercial sex and sex trafficking occur and which responses are required to address
De Vries loves mentoring and teaching students, including about ethical issues to consider when
using social science data. She hopes to eventually lead her own research lab, contribute to
policy around human trafficking, and help advance the field of criminology with new methods.
Recently, she accepted an assistant professorship within the College of Criminology and
Criminal Justice at Florida State University.