Resilience in African American Women Formerly Involved in Street Prostitution

Article excerpt

Abstract: Identifying the meanings of resilience assists nurses in helping individuals facing adversity across diverse cultural contexts. The purpose of this ethnonursing study was to describe resilience among African American women recovering from prostitution. Audio-taped interviews were conducted at a transitional home with eleven key and two general participants using the ethnonursing qualitative research method. The major findings include: (a) resilience as an ever-changing process that is different for each person when meeting life's challenges; (b) spirituality is a sustaining force when encountering difficult times; and (c) a culturally sensitive support system and establishing social connectedness fosters resilience. Three modes of culturally sensitive nursing care decisions and actions are offered to guide nurses when working with African American women who attempt to leave the lifestyle of prostitution. This study contributes to new knowledge and understanding about resilience among prostituted African American women because it identifies the participants' ability to seek positive social connectedness and identifies their ability to maintain a strong spiritual belief, which had not been previously located in the literature.

Key Words: Prostitution, Culture Care, Resilience, African Americans, Women

The domain of inquiry for this research was resilience among African American women recovering from prostitution. This study on resilience points to the understanding of complex relational and contextual aspects of positive outcome in the face of adversity (Rutter, 1987, 1999). An understanding of the meaning of resilience assists us in making inferences as to why one individual reacts with psychological and physiological symptoms to an objectively minor incident (Glantz & Sloboda, 1999) when another individual may hold up under conditions that seem insupportable to well-being. Yet, few research studies have identified resilience from diverse cultures and subcultures. Thus, the absence of identifying the meanings and expressions of resilience limits the ability to assist individuals facing adversity across diverse cultural and subcultural contexts (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000; Todd & Worell, 2000).


Scholars have identified female street prostitution as a subculture (Brock & Thistlewaite, 1996; Dalla, 2002; Delacoste & Alexander, 1998; Parley & Kelly, 2000) with distinctive patterns of living, such as identifiable cultural norms, values, and practices that differentiate them from the dominant culture. Investigators in the past decade have examined the patterns of living of prostituted women that specifically addressed the research objectives of governmental funding sources. These studies have focused on violence, substance abuse, or associated risk-taking (HIV/AIDS knowledge and condom use) behaviors (Kramer, 2003; Pyett, 2003; Williamson & Folaron, 2001; Young, Boyd, & Hubbell, 2000). Furthermore, women of color are more likely to be arrested and serve jail time although they represent a small number of women involved in prostitution (Scott, 2001). Consequently, a substantive knowledge of how and what African-American women do to recover from the adversities of prostitution through the process of resilience is not well known (Dalla, 2000; Williamson & Folaron, 2001)

Discovering gender specific care needs relative to social structure and cultural context among this group is needed, that will recognize and build on the strengths of African American women who attempt to leave the lifestyle of prostitution. Therefore, the purpose of this ethnographic study, which was part of a larger investigation, was to describe resilience among African-American women who were former prostitutes with the goal of discovering knowledge to guide nurses in providing culturally sensitive care. The research question is: what are the experiences, values, beliefs, meanings, and practices of resilience for African American women formerly involved in street prostitution? …


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