Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Experiences of Female Sex Trafficking Survivors: A Phenomenological Analysis

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Experiences of Female Sex Trafficking Survivors: A Phenomenological Analysis

Article excerpt

Introduction

Human trafficking is a global social issue and is the second largest criminal industry in the world earning an estimated 32 billion dollars (UNICEF, 2013). Human trafficking has numerous definitions, but mainly describes the process of one person being forced into service by another individual, with these services including forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor, debt bondage, involuntary domestic servitude, and child soldiering (Wilson & Butler, 2014). This social issue is a prevalent form of human exploitation (Faulkner, Mahapatra, Cook Heffron, Nsonwu, & Busch-Armendariz, 2013) that affects individuals globally despite their race, ethnicity, gender, age, educational level, and geographic location (Zhang, 2009).

Of the forms of human trafficking, sex trafficking is the fastest growing form worldwide, as it is a market-driven industry based on demand and supply (Hodge, 2008; Macy & Johns, 2011; Samarasinghe, 2009; United Nations, 2002). According to the International Labour Organization (2012), approximately 4.5 million individuals are victims of sex trafficking. This statistic is an approximation as it is not possible to pinpoint the actual number of victims. Similarly, specific statistics on traffickers and pimps is unknown. Traffickers and pimps can be strangers, acquaintances, intimate partners, or even family members of victims (Dahal, Joshi, & Swahnberg, 2015; Jordan, Patel, & Rapp, 2013; Meshkovska, Siegel, Stutterheim, & Bos, 2015). A common misconception is that traffickers and pimps are males, however, it is important to note that females also take on these roles. In fact, victims of sex trafficking and current or former female sex workers can become recruiters and madams themselves (Meshkovska et al., 2015).

Traffickers and pimps tend to target individuals by taking advantage of their pressing needs. Targeted individuals include, but are not limited to, immigrants, unemployed, females, children, homeless, orphans, sex and gender minorities, runaway youth, individuals from economically or politically instable countries, and individuals with limited resources and a history of abuse, trauma, and relational conflict (Dalla, Xia, & Kennedy, 2003; Gajic-Veljanoski, & Stewart, 2007; Smith, Vardaman, & Snow, 2009; Orme & Ross-Sheriff, 2015). These individuals become involved in the sex trafficking industry due to traffickers' and pimps' use of deception, coercion, and force. They may use deception strategies by distributing false employment ads and may use force in the form of kidnapping or drugging (Dahal et al., 2015; O'Brien, Carpenter, & Hayes, 2013). Individuals may be coerced through employment advertisements in a foreign country that may seem appealing for those who are striving to escape poverty, immigrate to a different country, are in need of financial resources, have an existing debt, or need money to support their family (Dahal et al., 2015; Zhang, 2009). At other times, victims may be forced into the industry due to their family members or friends selling them to traffickers with the belief that they will receive compensation (Zimmerman et al., 2006).

Human sex trafficking affects individuals of diverse backgrounds and characteristics. Victims tend to originate from less developed geographic locations such as South Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe, and be transported to more developed locations such as Western Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East (Zhang, 2009). In some countries, human sex trafficking is more prevalent, but no country is protected from its occurrence and any country can serve as a source, transit, and destination (U. S. Department of State, 2017; Zhang, 2009). Asian countries have been known to have higher rates of sex trafficking while Eastern European and the Middle Eastern countries have had the fastest growth of trafficking and unwillful forced prostitution (Kara, 2010). …

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