Anna Pederson (She/Her/Hers), Graduate Student Counseling Psychology, UW-Madison
Lara Gerassi, Associate Professor, Department of Social Work – UW Madison
Despite growing evidence suggesting that LGBTQ+ individuals are at risk of sex trafficking, how social service providers address this population remain understudied. This study uses a directed content analysis approach to understand providers’ perceived knowledge of and practice with LGBTQ+ individuals at risk of sex trafficking. We conducted 24 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with social service providers who knowingly encounter sex trafficked individuals in a Midwest region. Findings suggest that providers have a range of knowledge and practice strategies for identifying and providing inclusive and affirming services to this population. Challenges include using outdated terminology, lack of recognition of sex trafficking risk among LGBTQ+ individuals, and assumptions of identity resulting from trauma. Social service providers have an important opportunity to provide inclusive and affirming services to all individuals, recognizing both the unique strengths and risks of LGBTQ+ individuals at risk of sex trafficking. Affirming, client-centered services can be a critical means for increasing access and engagement along with fostering resilience. Implications for practice with youth and adults and future research are discussed.