To address this knowledge gap, our team undertook an exploratory qualitative study to assess foreign-national HT survivors’ opinions and recommendations for engaging survivors in intervention research. The study was guided by the following research questions: (1) How do foreign-national HT survivors define and understand research? (2) What are foreign-national HT survivors’ reasons for participating or not participating in intervention research? and (3) What are foreign-national HT survivors’ recommendations for engaging survivors in intervention research? This study is part of a larger parent project initiated in 2020 to conduct an evaluability assessment and formative evaluation of an anti-trafficking program in the United States. The parent project is a collaborative effort between a team of university-based researchers and leaders of the program.
Methods: In-depth, individual interviews were conducted via Zoom with 10 HT survivors who were foreign nationals when they began services. Interviewers used a semi-structured, standardized guide comprised of open-ended questions and prompts to facilitate the interviews and take detailed notes. Interview discussions were audio-recorded, transcribed, and checked for accuracy. Transcripts were independently analyzed by two team members using a content analysis approach. The coding scheme was informed by the research questions, interview guides, and extant literature; coders also searched for unexpected findings. The coders identified codes independently, compared emerging categories and subcategories, and then recoded the transcripts until no new findings emerged. Throughout this process, coders engaged in negative case analysis to seek divergent perspectives and disconfirming opinions.
Results: Key findings included: (a) varied perceptions of research; (b) reasons for research participation (e.g., pay it forward, study relevance); (c) barriers to research participation (e.g., embarrassment, fear, triggers), and (d) advice for researchers (e.g., importance of confidentiality and consideration of participants’ busy schedules). Recommended strategies for ethically recruiting and collecting data from foreign-national survivors stressed the need for multiple recruitment and data collection strategies to enhance participants’ autonomy over their research participation. Compensation was highlighted as a critical research support; however, participants shared mixed opinions regarding compensation-related preferences and concerns.
Conclusions and Implications: This research takes a preliminary but important step toward understanding how best to recruit, engage, and collect data from foreign-national HT survivors. Such research is greatly needed to develop research protocols that are feasible and acceptable. While all study participants were recruited from one anti-trafficking program, the results provide valuable guidance on engaging foreign-national HT survivors in intervention research.