Sexual Exploitation, Selling and Swapping Sex: Victimhood and Agency

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Abstract

Drawing on a qualitative study of women involved in sex work in the UK, this paper focuses on the participants who became involved in sexual exploitation or, what some of them saw as, selling or swapping sex for non-monetary 'payment', under the age of 18. A central aim of the study was to develop an understanding of how the meaning ascribed to risk and protective factors influenced perceptions of victimhood and agency. Findings indicate that the key determinants of pathway outcomes were: whether, and how, the search for approval and affection was resolved; whether feeling 'different' led to a sense of defeat or strengthened resolve; whether coping strategies were adaptive or maladaptive; and whether individuals experienced the availability of a secure base. The findings suggest the need for policy which acknowledges the expertise and views of the young people involved, recognises the importance of early intervention, and is holistic in service provision not only for young people who are victims of sexual exploitation, but also for those who perceive that they have exercised agency, albeit from limited options, about their involvement in selling or swapping sex.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185–199
Number of pages15
JournalChild Abuse Review
Volume23
Issue number3
Early online date28 Jun 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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