Abstract: Perceptions of Hope Among Victims of Human Trafficking through the Lens of Photovoice (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Perceptions of Hope Among Victims of Human Trafficking through the Lens of Photovoice

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Liberty Ballroom N, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Dana Harley, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati, OH
James Canfield, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
Leslie Kokotek, MA, Speech Language Pathologist; Doctoral Student, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
Background and Purpose:

Few social work researchers have utilized photovoice methodology in studies exploring perceptions of hope among victims of human trafficking. The use of photovoice, an innovative participatory action research methodology, gives vulnerable populations the opportunity to explore and define for themselves, through photography and narration, the everyday reality of their lives and their perceptions about the world.

This paper helps to address this gap in the literature by exploring the perceptions of hope among victims of trafficking through the lens of photovoice.


Thirteen in-depth interviews were conducted with victims of trafficking residing in a homeless shelter for women.   Photovoice methodology was employed in this study. Research participants were given cameras and asked to capture images of hope. Participants discussed their photographs with the researcher during an audio recorded interview. Each interview was transcribed verbatim. Constant comparative analysis was employed to analyze the data. Qualitative analysis software Nvivo9 was utilized to assist in data reduction and for the generation of themes across the data. 


Data analysis revealed that victims of trafficking experience hope through supportive others, personal agency, spirituality, and basic needs. . Participants in the study identified a supportive network of people that helped to inspire a sense of hope.  Personal agency was necessary for participants in the study to persevere in the face of difficulty. Spirituality was identified by participants as promoting hope through a belief in a higher power.  Accessing basic needs were important for participants to maintain a hopeful outlook.

Conclusion and Implications:

The use of photovoice with victims of human trafficking offered unique perspectives through photography and allowed for expression of sensitive topics. The analyses yielded important information about specific factors that promote hope among this population. Social workers can help meet the unique challenges of human trafficking victims by engaging in participatory research that allows research participants to co-construct their realities.