Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Helping Commercially Sexually Exploited Youth: Multiple Perspectives on Complex Help-Seeking Processes (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

166P (see Poster Gallery) Helping Commercially Sexually Exploited Youth: Multiple Perspectives on Complex Help-Seeking Processes

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Ayelet Prior, Doctoral student, Tel Aviv University, Israel
Roni Eyal-Lubling, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Tel Aviv University, Israel
Danya Koren Shimshoni, Master's student, Tel Aviv University, Israel
Guy Shilo, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Tel Aviv University
Einat Peled, PhD, Associate Professor, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Background and Purpose: Attention to the problem of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) of youth is on the rise in many countries in the past decade. Commercially sexually exploited youth (CSEY) are at extreme risk of various psychological, physical, and social problems. Although newly developed policies and interventions were recently designed to help CSEY exit CSE and heal from its effects, the available literature suggests that helping them is a complex task, entailing the involvement of multiple care and professional entities, and a range of specific services and interventions. The available research on helping CSEY is based almost entirely on professionals’ views and very little research has focused on help-related experiences as perceived by CSEY. Accordingly, the purpose of the present study was to gain an in-depth understanding of the help seeking processes and the help-related experiences of CSEY, from both the perspective of CSEY and help-providers (HP). Our working hypothesis was that the help-seeking processes of CSEY are non-linear, and that each group of participants would conceptualize this process differently. We used Cauce’s theoretical framework to conceptualize the main phases of help-seeking processes: problem definition, a decision to seek help, and selection of the proper help provider.

Methods: This constructivist grounded theory qualitative study was based on semi-structured interviews, focused on exploring the help-seeking processes of CSEY.

It used a purposeful sample of 51 CSEY, and 21 HP (mostly social workers). The interviews were analyzed using a grounded theory analysis approach with the help of MAXQDA software.

Results: The findings reveal discrepancy concerning the first phase of the help-seeking process – problem definition – between the two groups of participants. CSEY mainly related to their involvement in CSE as a necessity or a choice. Further, they described it mostly as a survival strategy and objected a conceptualization of their involvement in CSE as problematic. Rather, they explained that it was a solution to many other problems they had, such as homelessness or poverty. However, HP were almost unanimous in conceptualizing youth’s involvement in CSE as problematic. They argued it was the most urgent problem that their CSEY clients suffer from, and accordingly prioritized it in intervention with the youth.

Conclusions and Implications: Including both CSEY and social workers perspectives in the study yielded a multilayered understanding of the unique characteristics of beneficial help relations. Different problem definitions lead to divergent conceptualizations of needs, and accordingly impact the interventions and support that are offered to CSEY and how they are used by them. More so the two perspectives highlighted the cruciality of breaking down the formal aspects of help provision and going beyond traditional practices. Therefore, in order to promote useful and effective services and intervention policy directed at CSEY, the divergent perspectives of CSEY and HP must be taken into consideration. Further, the findings demonstrated the need to establish an understanding of help seeking processes based on the perspectives of both clients and service providers, in order to uncover gaps that may remain hidden otherwise.