“It’s All about Breaking down Those Barriers…”: Exploring Survivors’ Perspectives on Services and Treatment Needs following Commercial Sexual Exploitation during Childhoodedit
Purpose: In recent years, there has been an increase in funds and services available to address the needs of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC). While previous studies have explored the mental, behavioral, and physical needs of CSEC victims and survivors, few studies have focused on the service needs CSEC victims and survivors themselves deem most important. The current study seeks to bridge this gap by garnering American CSEC victims’ and survivors’ perspectives regarding CSEC service strengths, weaknesses, and gaps. Method: Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 13 adult survivors of CSEC to examine their perceptions of current CSEC services in the United States. All interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and imported into a qualitative data analysis program. Using an inductive approach, two major themes emerged: short-term needs and long-term needs. Results: Short-term needs included victim identification, housing, and emergency medical care. Long-term needs included life-skills, community building, legal assistance, and medical care. The results point to the complex needs of CSEC victims/survivors. Discussion: While CSEC services continue to develop, there remain many gaps in care in the services available. Study findings provide valuable insight to practitioners and researchers alike and identify the most critical needs of CSEC victims and survivors. Implications for practice and research are discussed.