Frances Recknor, C. Emma Kelly, Danielle Jacobson, Frances Montemurro, Rhonelle Bruder, Robin Mason, Janice Du Mont

Impacts of the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis on Caring for Sex-Trafficked Persons

  • Nursing (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Background Sex trafficking of persons, a pervasive public health issue disproportionately affecting the most marginalized within society, often leads to health as well as social consequences. Social service provision to meet the resulting needs is critical, however, little is known about the current pandemic’s impact on providers’ capacity to deliver requisite care. Method To examine social service providers’ perspectives of care provision for domestically sex-trafficked persons in Ontario, Canada, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 15 providers and analyzed these using Braun and Clarke’s analytic framework. Results Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on social service care provision were connected to individuals’ increased vulnerability to trafficking, difficulties safely and effectively providing services to sex-trafficked persons amid pandemic restrictions, and reduction in in-person educational activities to improve providers’ capacity to serve this client population. Securing safe shelter was particularly difficult and inappropriate placements could at times lead to further trafficking. Conclusion The pandemic created novel barriers to supporting sex-trafficked persons; managing these sometimes led to new and complex issues. Future efforts should focus on developing constructive strategies to support sex-trafficked persons’ unique needs during public health crises.

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