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A Qualitative Study of Women’s Experiences Transitioning from the Sex Trade to Legal Employment Opportunities
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Law enforcement, the media, and the public have given recent attention to the sex trade in conjunction with an increased focus on combatting sex trafficking. However, little is known about women’s experiences transitioning out of the sex trade, especially related to learning and finding economically sustainable employment. The purpose of this study was to investigate the experiences of women transitioning out of the sex trade, especially related to finding legal employment. Transitional learning theory, experiential learning theory, and a general transition model formed the conceptual framework which guided this study. Participants included 10 adult English speaking women who engaged in the sex trade in Texas for at least 1 year, and who exited the sex trade at least 3 months before being interviewed. Data collection involved two semi-structured interviews composed of open-ended questions and probing questions. I used the constant comparative coding method for data analysis. Respondents described the challenges, supports, and types of learnings used throughout their experience transitioning from the sex trade. The participants’ experiences were categorized into (a) employment related challenges, (b) managing mental health and emotions, (c) navigating basic life skills, and (d) building, rebuilding, and managing relationships. Themes related to women’s supports include (a) how women found support, (b) the importance of support providers conducting a needs assessment with women, (c) the supportive relationships women experienced, (d) the necessity of holistic support, and (e) the support women felt was missing while they transitioned. Finally, themes related to women’s types of learning included (a) experiential learning, (b) social learning, (c) the role of survivor leaders in power and policy, and (d) the need to treat survivor leaders as experts and teachers. I organized the findings into a model to describe women’s transition process. The findings have implications for practice—by organizations, employers, and law enforcement—as well as policy and future research.
Deer, Shannon Knight (2017). A Qualitative Study of Women’s Experiences Transitioning from the Sex Trade to Legal Employment Opportunities. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from