Hope to despair: Children and young people’s experiences of trafficking abuse

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Despite the increasing awareness of child trafficking and modern slavery as a growing societal issue, little is known about the direct experiences of children and young people in trafficking situations. This paper contributes to this gap by reporting findings from a qualitative study that was conducted in England with young people who had lived experiences of child trafficking. Drawing on personal testimonies through in-depth interviews, this paper reports how children’s journeys of hope turned into despair. Children realised they were deceived when promises made did not materialise, they were subjected to multiple and severe forms of abuse and became aware they were used, sold, and resold for traffickers’ gain. This paper considers how in seemingly powerless situations, some degree of children’s agency was exercised. Various coping mechanisms and tactics were developed as children tried to gain some knowledge and power to survive. This research provides valuable insight into the lived experiences of trafficking abuse, enabling practitioners to understand the dynamics, processes and acts children and young people are exposed to. The findings emphasise the importance of recognising the critical role that connected peers play in the trafficking process in helping others to cope, survive and ultimately escape.
Original languageEnglish
Article number19
Pages (from-to)3347-3365
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number6
Early online date15 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

This work was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council [1098086].


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