Midwives' experiences and perceptions in treating victims of sex trafficking: A qualitative study

J Adv Nurs. 2022 Jul;78(7):2139-2149. doi: 10.1111/jan.15165. Epub 2022 Feb 3.


Aim: To explore the experiences and perceptions of midwives in the treatment of sex trafficking victims.

Design: The study was qualitative with a hermeneutic-phenomenological approach, using semi-structured interviews and focus groups.

Methods: Two focus groups and six interviews were carried out on 14 midwives in primary care, delivery and emergency rooms. Data were collected in three hospitals in Spain in June 2021. ATLAS.ti 9 software was used to conduct a content analysis of the focus group and interview data.

Results: The results revealed two primary themes and six subthemes. The two primary themes were (i) sex trafficking: a camouflaged reality on the invisible spectrum, and (ii) a thirst for attention in the aftermath of violence. Representative quotations were used to illustrate both the main themes and the subthemes.

Conclusions: This study provides new insight into midwives' experiences treating sex trafficking victims. Professionals view this type of violence as a silent issue that negatively impacts victims' health and livelihood. However, a number of different factors stand in the way of correctly identifying and treating victims. Therefore, healthcare workers must be provided with practical tools and continuous professional development on this topic.

Impact: This study indicates the importance of the midwives' key role in identifying and assisting victims of sex. Not only do measures in the healthcare setting, such as on-going specific-related content training or up-to-date protocols, need to be implemented to ensure proper care for those affected by sexual exploitation, but also focusing on suspicious characteristics and reducing obstacles to patient communication will help bring the true situation to light and better respond to patients' priority needs.

Keywords: midwives; nursing; qualitive research; sex trafficking.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Human Trafficking*
  • Humans
  • Midwifery* / education
  • Nurse Midwives* / education
  • Pregnancy
  • Qualitative Research