Chiara Ferrari


Sexual trafficking and exploitation are a worldwide phenomenon affecting a huge number of women. Many studies have examined the process of sex trafficking entering, but less have analyzed the exit process. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of factors that intervene on the sex trafficking exit, starting from the most common theoretical models in literature. We used the Sociological Abstract and Scopus database to identify articles; further relevant studies have been identified with the snowballing method. We focused on empirical studies, the exit factors, and studies based on victims’ point of view. There was no limitation for sample’s nationality, gender of trafficked people or age of victims, or timing. We included 13 empirical studies (9 qualitative, 3 quantitative, and 1 mixed method). The review revealed several factors that intervene in the exit process at the individual, relational, and structural level. For each level, facilitating, hindering, and controversial factors have been identified. Results show the complexity of the process of exiting sex trafficking; 4 ambivalent factors were identified, 7 hindering, and 21 facilitators. The review operationally suggests which factors are to be strengthened (like the social capital) to facilitate the emancipation of women from trafficking, which ones should be limited (as the stigma of women who have come out of prostitution) for the social inclusion of people, and which ones should be studied in more detail (for example, the role of families) because they are sometimes facilitators and barriers to the exit of sexual exploitation. The limitations of this study include that it only includes English studies, there is little coherence in defining sex trafficking among the scientific community, and secondary information (type of exploitation, destination of trafficking) is not present in the selected articles that complicate the exhaustive interpretation of the results.

Note on the Author

Chiara Ferrari is a clinical psychologist and PhD student in Sociology, Organizations and Cultures at the Catholic University of Milan where she is a Teaching Fellow and facilitator of laboratories of General Sociology and Sociology of the Family and Personal Services at the Faculty of Psychology. She collaborates with the University Center for Studies and Research on the Family of the Catholic University and ISMU Foundation - Initiatives and Studies on Multi-ethnicity. She deals with gender violence and sex trafficking.