Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date

November 2018

Publication Title

American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Expo


Mental Health, Youth Violence


Medicine and Health Sciences | Nursing | Public Health | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Background: Youth at highest risk for commercial sexual exploitation in the United States (US) are runaway, homeless, and transgender youth. Despite the availability of research evidence pertaining to this phenomenon, there is a lack of research synthesis to enable easy access and use by health professionals and others who serve this population. This review’s purpose was to aggregate the qualitative evidence regarding commercially sexually exploited youth (CSEY) in the US to inform the development of appropriate interventions and response systems. Methods: The search included published and unpublished qualitative studies with current or former CSEY who resided in the US. Results: Of >1,200 references returned, there were 19 studies that met inclusion criteria and that were selected for inclusion in the review. There were a total of 795 participants represented among the studies’ samples. Eight themes were identified and grouped into three broader categories: experiences that preceded sex work entry, experiences that facilitated sex work continuation, and experiences that facilitated sex work exit. Conclusions: Understanding the barriers and facilitators of commercial sexual exploitation can inform the development of interventions that address the needs of CSEY and youth at risk for exploitation. The results of this review highlight the social and economic influences as well as the role of positive and negative reinforcement involved in sex work entry, its continuation, and exit. Needs for services, research, and advocacy are also discussed.