Alinka Gearon (UK)

Topic: Lived experiences of child trafficking and exploitation: abuse, coping and survival strategies.
Language: English 


Despite increasing awareness of child trafficking and exploitation, little is known about the lived experiences of children and young people. This presentation reports findings from a qualitative study that was conducted in England, with young people who experienced child trafficking abuse and exploitation. In-depth qualitative interviews and focus groups were held with 20 young people aged 15-21. Drawing on personal testimonies this presentation reports how children’s journeys of hopes turned into despair. The findings reveal how children and young people were deceived, when promises made did not materialise, they were subjected to multiple and severe forms of trafficking abuse and children became aware they were commodified as ‘products’ for traffickers’ gain. Despite being under oppressive conditions, children developed various coping mechanisms and adapted to gain some knowledge and power, as survival strategies. The presentation draws attention to the role of other children, connected peers within trafficking situations, as a significant finding in helping children and young people to cope and even escape.

These findings are used to extend our knowledge about how the trafficking process is experienced from children’s perspectives. Coping strategies such as compliance, avoidance tactics and adaptation provide valuable insights into peritraumatic responses to trafficking abuse, critical to children’s survival. Knowledge of peritraumatic responses to trafficking abuse can assist practitioners engaging in trafficking protection and trauma recovery. Implications for practice are considered in how practitioners can recognise, support, and mobilise the valuable protective roles that connected peers can play in responding to trafficking abuse.