Methods: A qualitative method through a phenomenological approach will allow participants to tell the lived experiences of their roles working with survivors and victims of exploitation. The study took place at a legal clinic within a university setting in the United States. The clinic works with victims and survivors of sexual exploitation.
The method of data collection was semi-structural interviews. Participants were contacted via email per convenience sampling at the legal clinic by the research team for recruitment. The purpose and the expectation of the study were explained, and consent forms were provided. Six people actively participated in the study of the 10 law students and staff eligible to participate. Five participants were third-year students, and one participant was a legal fellow. The interviews lasted approximately 45-60 minutes each.
Audio and video of each interview were recorded and transcribed. All data was stored within an encrypted file to which only the approved research team had direct access. Thematic analysis was utilized to examine the data. The researchers used intercoder reliability to verify the data collected.
Results: The two coders initially created themes from the data separately. These themes were integrated to create an overview of the data. The final themes were New Ways of Knowing, Interface with DFCS Social Workers, Importance of Trauma-Informed Knowledge, and Awareness of One’s Emotional Investment.
Providing the experience of a specialized clinic provides participants with expertise not found in traditional classroom settings. In specialty legal clinics center around trauma-informed practices, these experiences further transcend traditional legal knowledge and increase the participant’s ability to be empathic, levels of communication, and an increased understanding of cross-professional disciplines.
Also, the research team will collaborate with the clinic to create ongoing evaluation methods to review its effectiveness regarding staff training, staff well-being, and satisfaction of services from victims/survivors. The goal is to create a trauma-informed workforce that implements positive outcomes for clients.