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Mental Health Experiences of Sex Trafficking Victims in Western Countries: A Qualitative Study

Chu, K; Billings, J; (2020) Mental Health Experiences of Sex Trafficking Victims in Western Countries: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Human Trafficking 10.1080/23322705.2020.1825897. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

In recent years, human trafficking has received increasing public awareness and media attention, and sex trafficking in particular has become a prevailing human rights issue on a global scale. Despite growing scientific literature in the field, there remains a limited number of international qualitative studies investigating victims’ needs. This study aims to explore the experiences of people who have been sex trafficked in a Western country and how this impacted their mental health, as described in online first-person accounts. First-person online narratives of sex trafficking victims (n = 30) were retrieved from a systematic online search. A thematic analysis identified overarching themes, with the most prominent being 1) preexisting vulnerabilities, 2) psychological mechanisms involved in trafficking (i.e. deception, manipulation), and 3) barriers to recovery. The results showed how preexisting vulnerabilities can impact victims’ susceptibility to trafficking and how psychological control tactics utilized in the trafficking process maintain victims’ vulnerability. The results of this thematic analysis provide insight into the diverse set of mental, social, and legal needs that trafficking victims face and may inform potential post-trafficking interventions to meet these needs and prevention efforts to reduce vulnerability to trafficking. Further implications and methodological considerations are discussed in full.

Type: Article
Title: Mental Health Experiences of Sex Trafficking Victims in Western Countries: A Qualitative Study
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/23322705.2020.1825897
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/23322705.2020.1825897
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Human trafficking, sexual exploitation, mental health, intervention, abuse, trauma, qualitative, thematic analysis
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10114051
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