Katie Edwards, director of the Interpersonal Violence Research Laboratory and associate professor of educational psychology, is leading research to better understand how survivors of sex trafficking view the services they receive — and what services they find the most useful.
“We want to identify not only barriers to accessing services and why survivors access some services and not others, but also what works to promote recovery,” said Edwards, the project’s principal investigator and member. of faculty from the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools. “There is very little research on survivors, so part of the project is looking at what survivors need to heal and recover so we can effectively support them on their journey.”
The project is funded by a grant from the we Department of Justice–National Institute of Justice, and is a collaborative effort between survivors, practitioners, and researchers.
Information will be collected from survivors of sex trafficking who have received or are receiving services at Call to Freedom, a nonprofit organization in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that provides survivors with comprehensive, ongoing, and coordinated services. considering trauma.
Call to Freedom offers substance abuse crisis coordination, case management, employment and housing support, and occupational therapy. The organization also partners with community providers to help survivors access mental health care, medical and dental services, and legal services.
One of the goals of the study, Edwards said, is to document enrollment rates and gauge the acceptability of research procedures by the organization’s clients.
Additionally, researchers will interview 135 survivors with varying levels of Call to Freedom services to learn why they used specific services and how those services helped their recovery, and to gather feedback on how to improve the services.
The results will be used to create a toolkit containing information to help practitioners effectively support survivors of sex trafficking, including best practices for assessing available services
“For survivors of sex trafficking, trust can understandably be difficult for them,” said Becky Rasmussen, executive director of Call to Freedom. “If a survivor comes to us for help and we haven’t been able to help them or haven’t helped enough, we want to know why.
Identifying the myriad needs of sex trafficking survivors is crucial, she said.
“Every trip is different for every individual,” Rasmussen said. “Survivors of trafficking have diverse needs – there is no simple way to serve them effectively.”
Rasmussen noted that in 2016 — Call to Freedom’s first year — the center served 30 sex trafficking survivors. As of September 2021, the center had 216. Forty-two percent were Native Americans.
Besides Edwards and Rasmussen, other members of the project team include Shana Cerny, associate professor of occupational therapy at the University of South Dakota; Bridget Diamond-Welch, associate professor of family medicine at the University of South Dakota; Ashton Ekdom, Program Development and Occupational Therapy Manager, Call to Freedom; and Lorey Wheeler, CYFS associate research professor and co-director of the Nebraska Academy of Methodology, Analytics and Psychometrics.
Edwards said she is confident the project will not only highlight the critical need for organizations such as Call to Freedom, but will also serve as a model for other organizations to provide comprehensive and coordinated services to survivors of trafficking. human being.
“This project demonstrates the importance of partnerships between researchers, survivors and practitioners,” she said. “Together we can do deeper work and generate more positive outcomes for survivors than if we were working alone.”
Edwards is also involved in two other studies — both funded by the Department of Justice — focused specifically on sex trafficking prevention and victim recovery among Native Americans.