In 2014, there were over 1.1 million reported cases (ECPATUSA, 2017) of Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) and according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the Northern California Bay Area has become one of the nation’s thirteen High Intensity Child Prostitution areas (Walker, 2013). From a strengths-based trauma-informed perspective, this study explored the factors that assist youth with exiting “the life” associated with CSEC. The primary research question was: What can be learned from the lived experiences of women who successfully exited childhood commercial sexual exploitation and perceive themselves to be functioning well despite this history?
This qualitative study employed semi-structured interviews from the Northern California Bay Area, with thirteen predominately women of color, average age of 25 (range 21–26), who successfully exited the “Life” after an average of four years (range 1–9). The average age entering the “Life” was 13 (range 8–17) with all exiting at age 17. A thematic analysis identified twenty themes organized under three primary categories. The first category is Self-Defined Wellness: naming of “self” outside the “Life”, connections with family, breaking the cycle, and embracing the term “Survivor.” The second is Describing the “Life”: sex for goods, surviving “the Game”, pimp control, wanting to be loved, contributing family factors and the grooming process. The third is the Exiting Process: naming one who exited, others depending on me, exiting not profitable, fear keeps you in, thinking about leaving, the importance of family, pending motherhood, wanting to be free, sustaining exit, and professional systems not accessed. There were four recommendations from Survivors: active listening, encouragement, non-judgment, and “don’t leave when we push”. Lastly, two anecdotal themes emerged: treated like garbage by the legal system and “I thought I was grown”.
The study design uniquely positioned the voices of Survivors as experts in relation to expanding knowledge about the exiting process and offering recommendations for youth, family members, and providers. Contributions include the importance of bearing witness to youths’ stories as part of resiliency/recovery and valuing the complexities of family relationships in the exiting process. Implications for advocacy, research, and practice are discussed.
|Commitee:||Federman, Joel, Meeker, Joy|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-B 79/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Social work, Psychology, Sociology|
|Keywords:||CSEC, Child prostitution, Commercial sexually exploited children, Domestic minor sex trafficking, Survivors|
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