Journal article by Carr Fellow Laura Cordisco Tsai analyzes the transition of living in shelters to acclimating back to life in their communities for survivors of sexual exploitation.
In this article, we explore the experiences of survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Cambodia as they transition from living in trafficking-specific shelter facilities to living in the community. We analyzed data from Chab Dai's Butterfly Longitudinal Research (BLR) project, a 10-year longitudinal study with survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Cambodia utilizing a prospective panel design. We present findings from our analysis of 236 interviews and narrative summaries of interviews conducted with survivors between the years 2011 and 2016 (n=79). An interpretive phenomenological approach was used to understand survivors' experiences during this transition. Themes included: conflicted feelings about life in the community; difficulties completing school and securing employment; violence in the community; limited follow-up; unfulfilled expectations; feeling loved like a family member in the shelter, but abandoned in the community; vulnerability in the community due to dramatic differences between shelters and the community; and varied experiences with case closure. We underscore the importance of understanding and listening to the voices of survivors about their experiences in the anti-human trafficking sector and discuss implications for the design and implementation of services for survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Southeast Asia.