Petersen, 32, passed away on Nov. 13, in Haiti. Claude d’Estree, the executive director of the Human Trafficking Center at the University of Denver, had employed Petersen until June as a researcher and as his assistant, after which she moved to Haiti. He said she had been teaching at private pre-kindergarten-through-12 school, Union School Haiti, mainly to support herself, and had been exploring setting up a nongovernmental organization in Haiti. He said she committed suicide but the circumstances are not clear.
D’Estree said Petersen had gone to Haiti a number of times, but she was not there to research human trafficking and was not investigating the Clinton Foundation. He said she had been a “brilliant” research fellow, working the past two years to produce a still unpublished article that critiqued a controversial book on the business of sex trafficking by Siddharth Kara.
Indeed, Petersen was active in promoting sex-worker rights. Her last interview before her death was for a two-hour podcast, which aired in September, hosted by Chris Sowa titled “Fighting the Trafficking Narrative from Alaska to Rhode Island.”