Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Janet Chang


This qualitative study sought to explore the personal experiences of those who have been victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST), the challenges they faced as they transitioned into survivors, and the factors they attributed to their resiliency. DMST victims are among the marginalized populations enduring social injustices within our communities. Social workers seek to serve these individuals, and yet they are just one part of the system of helping professionals that will encounter these victims. The interactions that DMST victims have with each entity of the system makes a difference in the recovery process as they become a survivor.

Much of the research that had previously been conducted focused on the therapist’s perspective of DMST as experienced through their own therapeutic relationships with the victims. In contrast, the primary goal of this research was to focus on the perspective of those who had been victims of DMST so those in the helping professions can more effectively help these individuals. In order to achieve such goals it is essential to build a foundation of knowledge. This involves providing educational aspects to understand the scope of the problem and the dynamics of the trafficking relationship. In the case of this research, the victims themselves provide the knowledge that was gained through their participation. In addition, the research participants were able to express their perspective of both effective and ineffective aspects of their recovery, as well as what modifications could be made to improve the experiences of those who have been DMST victims in the process of becoming a survivor.

Despite the differences in the experiences of the participants, this research revealed major themes in terms of dysfunctional family dynamics in childhood, a lack of recognition of the signs of trafficking, a lack of appropriate recovery services, and provided insight into helpful strategies that could be implemented to improve the process as these individuals transition from victim to survivor. The personal experiences within the specific themes and categories provide beneficial knowledge for those involved in the helping professions as they encounter victims of DMST.