Director of Human Trafficking Research Portfolio, Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Melissa Irene Maldonado Torres is Director of the Human Trafficking Research Portfolio at the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her Masters of Social Work and PhD at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, where she is co-founder of the college’s Latin American Initiative. She teaches classes on human trafficking at both the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston and has served as the human trafficking expert for various academic studies in the U.S. and Latin America.
Over the last 10 years, her research has included the trafficking of women from Latin America for sexual exploitation, policy analysis on the protection of domestic minor sex trafficking survivors, labor abuse and exploitation faced by undocumented immigrants, assessments on displacement and knowledge of trafficking risks in indigenous communities, and exploring the demand side of sex trafficking. She has conducted trainings on forced migration and exploitation for legislators, investigators, healthcare professionals, and social service providers in the U.S. and Latin America. Of Mexican descent, Dr. Torres is a native of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and was raised on the U.S.-Mexico border.