THESIS DEFENCE: Amy Kobelt, “Women’s Experiences of Healing After Sex Trafficking in Canada”
Supervisor: Janelle Kwee, PhD (CPSY)
Second Reader: Jennifer Mervyn, PhD (CPSY)
External Examiner: Barbara Astle, PhD (MSN)
Exam Chair: TBD
Sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world and is often inaccurately perceived to only occur in developing countries. In Canada, sex trafficking is a hidden crime that impacts women of every race and socioeconomic status, though Indigenous women are disproportionately represented as victims. Victims of sex trafficking experience oppression and silencing as a result of this crime, and this study was designed to counteract those experiences by providing a platform to listen to survivors. This study aimed to hear from survivors of sex trafficking in Canada and listen to their experiences of healing, strength, and resiliency after they have been freed from exploitation. Seven women who were victims of sex trafficking in Canada were selected for inclusion based on their experiences of victimization and their ability to speak to the healing journey that they have been on. In order to provide victim-informed research driven by participant’s narratives, the qualitative feminist method of the listening guide was utilized. Two categories of voices emerged in participants’ narratives: voices of resistance and voices of healing. The voices of resistance (oppression, dismissal, avoidance, confusion, and disconnection), spoke about obstacles and barriers in healing, while voices of healing (connection, knowing, compassion, resilience, advocacy, agency, and purpose), captured women’s stories of healing, strength and resilience. Survivors were found to experience healing through connection with themselves and others, mastery of new skills, regaining their autonomy, finding purpose, and sharing their stories.