Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Dr Treena Orchard


Although human trafficking has a long history, it has more recently become a topic of profound interest in popular culture, in political debates on sex work and immigration, and among law enforcement and social service providers. However, the widespread interest in human trafficking has not translated into a clear or consistent understanding of the phenomenon or the experiences of those who have been trafficked. This study sought to explore the perspectives of women who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation and the professionals who work with them. Specifically, the study examined three key issues in sexual trafficking: the political and legal climate of sex trafficking in Canada, the discourses on sex trafficking and how it is defined, and the physical and mental health experiences of sexually trafficked women. These topics are explored within the Canadian context with an emphasis on experiences in Southwestern Ontario (where eight of the 12 participants were trafficked or work). Using qualitative research methods, namely semi-structured individual interviews, and approaches informed by critical feminist theory, data was gathered from four participant groups: women who have been sexually trafficked (n=3), service providers who work with sexually trafficked women (n=3), members of law enforcement (n=3), and service providers for other forms of labour trafficking (n=3). Given the lack of data and empirical research on sexually trafficked women, these findings are unique and of direct value to local service providers, policy stakeholders, and women with lived experience.