Peters' research focuses on how cultural frameworks inform the implementation of human trafficking law and policy. Peters examines how beliefs about sex, gender, and vulnerability inform the U.S. human trafficking response and the resulting effects on survivors. Peters' ethnographic work has enabled her to build connections with state task forces, community-based organizations, law enforcement personnel, and survivors of trafficking. Peters is currently immersed in an investigation of the human trafficking response in northern New England with the goal of contributing to future policy development and practice.
Notes that while human trafficking is widely considered a serious and despicable crime, there has been far less consensus as to how to approach the problem—owing in part to a pervasive emphasis on forced prostitution that overshadows repugnant practices in other labor sectors affecting vulnerable populations. Examines the ways in which cultural perceptions of sexual exploitation and victimhood inform the drafting, interpretation, and implementation of U.S. antitrafficking law, as well as the law's effects on trafficking victims.
Explores the ways in which the experiences of trafficking survivors challenge the dominant trafficking narrative.
Notes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, passed by the US Congress in 2000, makes a symbolic distinction between “sex” and “non-sex” trafficking, (i.e., movement into forced prostitution and movement into other forced labor sectors), thereby marking “sex trafficking” as a special category. Explores how the law is translated into action through symbolically-mediated processes that incorporate assumptions and narratives about sex, gender, and victimization, as well as how the symbolic privileging of “sex trafficking” results in uneven treatment of victims.