Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Dionne Stephens

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Asia Eaton

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Deborah Goldfarb

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee memeber

Fourth Advisor's Name

Maureen Kenny

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Purnima Madhivanan

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


India, sex trafficking, service providers, support services

Date of Defense



It is estimated that millions of women and children have experienced sex trafficking (ST) in India. The adverse mental and physical health outcomes and negative social impacts of ST are well established. Due to this, there are significant efforts to develop support services for ST survivors. However, support providers must navigate the multileveled framework of the Indian sex industry to reach ST survivors and provide treatment. Few studies have evaluated support services for survivors of ST across South Asia, nor have the experiences of anti-human trafficking stakeholders working in India been examined.

Study one utilized scoping review methods to identify and synthesize the available evidence on rehabilitative interventions for survivors of ST in South Asia. Eight databases were searched from June to August 2020 for relevant peer-reviewed articles published between 2000 and 2020. Of the 130 identified studies, six met the inclusion criteria. Studies were conducted in India and Nepal, and predominately used group and individual therapy. Two of the studies utilized evidence-based treatments. The lack of evidence underscores the need for rigorous evaluations of rehabilitative intervention efforts and the absence of standardized practices for survivors of ST.

Using qualitative methods and Ecological Systems Theory, Study two identifies the multilevel factors influencing anti-human trafficking professionals’ ability to address the needs of ST survivors. Thirteen anti-human trafficking professionals in India participated in individual interviews. Professionals faced challenges and barriers in their work, including societal level factors, government, and justice systems issues, community distrust, and reported mistreatment of ST survivors. The results point to areas in which ST prevention efforts could be increased and demonstrate professionals’ need for additional support.

Study three examined the role of informal networks that support anti-trafficking stakeholders in India using qualitative Grounded Theory methods. A total of 15 autorickshaw drivers familiar with the sex work industry in India participated in in-depth interviews. A model depicting autorickshaw drivers’ roles in the sex work industry was developed. The results provide direction for anti-human trafficking prevention efforts and highlight the need for cross-collaborative efforts across all actors within the sex work industry in India.



Previously Published In

C. E. Helpingstine, D. P. Stephens & P. Madhivanan (2022) Anti-human Trafficking Service Professionals in India: Challenges and Barriers to Service Provision, Journal of Human Trafficking, DOI: 10.1080/23322705.2022.2066874



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