Current prevention efforts are lacking in the use of research to inform the development and implementation of prevention programs, including what should be considered as prevention and how it would take shape within society. Additionally, when survivors are included in prevention efforts it often takes the form of a consultant, providing feedback and recommendations on that which has already been developed by the “professionals”. Survivors’ perspectives, experience, and knowledge must be integrated and acknowledged throughout the research process as crucial and necessary contributors.
Methods: This study utilized Group Concept Mapping (GCM), a rigorous participatory mixed-method process adept in capturing stakeholder contributions, to explore a framework for human trafficking prevention. GCM draws upon a non-random, purposive sample of stakeholders; survivors of human trafficking. Survivors are the originators of the data, determine the value of the data and identify ways the data should be coalesced and utilized.
This study included adult survivors of human trafficking (N=35), from three Midwest/southern states. Participants attended one of five brainstorming sessions where they were asked to conceptualize human trafficking prevention. After a content analysis of the data (statements) gathered during brainstorming, participants were invited back for phase two to rate and sort prevention statements. Participants sorted statements according to self-identified themes, after which they rated each statement according to two predetermined variables, Feasibility and Importance.
Results: Multidimensional Scaling analysis produced a Point Map with a final stress value of 0.2999, indicating a good representation of participants’ overall sorts. Subsequently a Hierarchical Cluster Analysis was carried out, resulting in a 10-Cluster solution conceptualizing a framework for preventing human trafficking. Clusters included: Education and Awareness, Social Services, and School Based Education to name a few. Average cluster ratings for Importance (4.31 – 4.6) and Feasibility (3.83 – 4.28) demonstrated a high level of participant agreement as shown by further analysis through a Pattern Match of the 10 clusters producing Pearson’s r correlation (r = 0.91).
Conclusions and Implications: This presentation is pertinent in several ways. This study contributes to an empirical knowledge base pertaining to the conceptualization of a prevent framework for human trafficking, addressing a significant dearth in the literature. Additionally, it highlights the versatility of GCM as a participatory research methodology apt for integrating survivors voices, an aim sometimes difficult to achieve in research. Lastly, this study models the meaningful inclusion of survivors through the research process with a central focus on their contributions as the primary source of data.
This study is the first of its kind, opening the door to explore survivor informed human trafficking prevention utilizing rigorous research methods.