Help-Seeking and Help-Related Experiences of Commercially Sexually Exploited Youth: A Qualitative Meta-Synthesis

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2023 Jul;24(3):1693-1711. doi: 10.1177/15248380221074333. Epub 2022 Apr 4.


This interpretive qualitative meta-synthesis (QMS) aims to systematically review what we know about the help-seeking and help-related experiences of commercially sexually exploited youth (CSEY). A comprehensive search of the relevant databases was conducted to identify published qualitative peer-reviewed papers and research reports about the experiences and perceptions of CSEY. A corpus of 34 qualitative studies was compiled and synthesized, using the conceptual framework of help-seeking and QMS guidelines. The QMS reveals that although help-seeking of CSEY are rarely the focus of the inquiry, the reviewed studies include meaningful information about help-related experiences of CSEY. Thus, the synthesis of the available data yields novel insights about how CSEY perceive their involvement in CSE, define the problems they deal with, decide to seek help, choose the proper help, and engage in helping relations. Particularly, the QMS underscores that CSEY do not always perceive their involvement in CSE as problematic, nor do they identify themselves as victims of exploitation. The findings highlight the significance of developing social services that specialize in helping CSEY, the importance of actively identifying CSEY and reaching out to them, and the need to enable CSEY to be involved in decisions about the extent and type of support they are provided.

Keywords: commercial sexual exploitation; commercially sexually exploited youth; help-seeking; qualitative meta-synthesis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual Behavior*