Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Dustin D. Berna

Second Advisor

Neil Katz

Third Advisor

Judith McKay


commercial sex industry, human trafficking, phenomenological study, recovery, resilience, victims


This phenomenological study is aimed at exploring the resilience of human trafficking victims. More specifically, this research study focuses on the experience of female sex trafficking victims through the lese of practitioners who work with them. By understanding the causes that make females vulnerable to be recruited by traffickers, the way they get exploited, as well as how they are able to leave the trafficking situation, this dissertation provides an understanding about the factors that promote healing and resiliency from the trafficking experience. Feminist theory was used to illuminate existing literature on the subject, and data analysis was conducted using the transcendental phenomenological model. The findings provided insight into how the resilience of female sex trafficking victims is predominant in victims who received one- on-one counseling, who joined fellowships and support groups, as well as how the concepts of spirituality facilities their healing and allows them to make sense of their trafficking experience. Once sex trafficking victims transitioned from being victims to survivors, helping and supporting other victims provides them with a higher purpose in life and their trafficking experience becomes a story of hope that can help other victims and inspire them to change their lives. They may also choose to use their experience to teach practitioners in the field, contribute to public policies, and towards the greater good of society. These findings are consistent with the achievement of the highest level of happiness according to Spitzer’s levels of happiness theory.