Survivors' Voices—Complex Needs of Sex Trafficking Survivors in the Midwest

Shireen S. Rajaram, Sriyani Tidball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Human trafficking is a serious public health issue and has long-term physical, mental, social, and economic consequences for survivors, their families, and communities. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking as a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or when a commercial sex act involves a person below 18 years of age. There is inadequate research from the perspectives of survivors. The purpose of this study was to gather data from survivors on their complex needs. We gathered qualitative data from twenty-two women, sex-trafficking survivors in the Midwest who were over 18 years old. Through one-on-one interviews, we obtained rich and authentic descriptions from the perspective of survivors. Interviews were recorded, data were transcribed, and coded and analyzed for key themes. The majority of the sample lived in an urban area, were not married and lived in either foster care or a group home as children. Findings highlighted the lack of awareness among the general public about sex trafficking and the stigma, blame and lack of trust that survivors experience. Frontline professionals such as healthcare providers and law enforcement lacked a trauma informed approach. Survivors highlighted their complex support needs both in the initial aftermath, and in the long-term including mental health services, and job and life skills training to help them fully recover. Including perspectives of survivors helps to ensure that comprehensive strategies address the complex needs of survivors to help them on their road to full recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-198
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018


  • prevention
  • public health
  • sex-trafficking
  • survivors
  • trauma informed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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