Lara Gerassi

Credentials: PhD, Washington University in St. Louis; MSW, Washington University in St. Louis; BSW, New York University

Position title: Assistant Professor


Phone: (608) 263-6356

308 School of Social Work

Curriculum Vitae

Lara B. Gerassi’s (she/her) research aims to inform policies and programs that enhance the well-being of people in the sex trades. Her work aims to include the perspectives of sex trafficking survivors, sex workers, and people who trade sex but do not identify with either term or phenomenon.

Dr. Gerassi’s research consists of two interconnected lines. One line aims to understand the characteristics, contexts, and conditions of people who trade sex across settings. This work underscores the need for community-driven study designs and better survey measures to uncover the nuanced experiences of people in the sex trades. A second line aims to identify actionable strategies to strengthen social and healthcare services for people who trade sex. Collectively, her research aims to improve anti-oppressive policies and practices for diverse, often minoritized, people who trade sex under diverse circumstances.

Dr. Gerassi’s first-authored book,  Sex Trafficking & Commercial Sexual Exploitation: Prevention, Advocacy, and Trauma-Informed Practice (2017), is the first comprehensive text to critically analyze the current research and best practices for social workers working with children, adolescents, and adults who are at risk of sex trafficking. Her publications are available here.

Dr. Gerassi’s pedagogical and mentoring approach is strongly informed by a critical, intersectional lens, which is essential to dismantling systems of oppression and advancing social justice. She teaches multiple courses including Sex Trading and Sex Trafficking and Practice with Individuals, Families, and Groups. Her research and teaching are informed by social work practice experience (LCSW), primarily with survivors of violence.