SECTION 2 - Strolling Away (2000-2001)
- 2.1 The Motivation to Do the Research
- 2.2 No Longitudinal Research
- 2.3 Methodology
- 2.4 Tracking
- 2.5 Interviews
- 2.6 Interdisciplinary Team
"Why did you want to know so much about our lives when they were going lousy and now that they are going good you ask us nothing?"
I had established a long-term connection with four of the original 50 interview subjects, as I had known these individuals well before their entrance into the sexual exploitation trade. In 1999, I was asked by one of these individuals why so much interest was expressed during her years of involvement in the sexual exploitation trade but no interest beyond that point in her life.
This challenge raised many questions. What happened to the original 50 interview subjects? Were they still on the street? Were they still alive? Were they helped? Could they have been helped sooner or even prevented from entering the street? As these individuals faced transition and personal challenges in their lives, I wondered if the programs and services were providing assistance.
"Why do we spend so much energy understanding how people enter deviancy and no time understanding how they leave?" (Paul Wiles, Director of Research for the British Government Home Office, January 2000)
With no longitudinal research on the population involved in the sexual exploitation trade, the time was right to conduct a ten-year retrospective study. The 1991-1992 consent forms provided permission to contact these individuals for future research and the original transcribed interviews were still available.
As with "The Youngest Profession – The Oldest Oppression", the interview subjects provided suggestions and comments on the design, content and sequence of the lines of inquiry. The questions were designed to answer the following:
- If someone exits the street, when and how is it done?
- Could they exit the street earlier than the "norm"?
- What services and support are required to exit and stay off the street?
Grounded Theory and Feminist research principles were once again utilized. The qualitative interviews were taped and transcribed. In order to facilitate the analysis, the interviews were dissected into common patterns of response and then placed in quantitative responses. See Appendix 1 for tables and responses.
A strategic tracking approach was developed for each of the original 50 interviewees. The goal was to account for as many individuals as possible but within the guideline to not disrupt anyone’s life. The Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary’s Social Issues Committee served as an advisory body for guidance and contact assistance.
An extensive review occurred of each of the 50 interviews on file. Notes were made of the history of each person as well as the last contact information. Contact occurred in a number of ways that included:
- Direct contact
- Direct contact by others acting on my behalf
- Internet research
- Mail or phone contact with never a direct reference to the topic of sexual exploitation
Individuals were provided the opportunity to contact me by phone, fax, email or mail.
Seeking the original participants from the original research was thought to be an onerous task. Establishing long-term relationships was not the purpose of the original research and nearly ten years had passed since the original participants were interviewed. It was suggested that the potential existed for 20-30% of the original population to be located. However, 78% of the original population (39 of 50) were found. Twenty-eight of the 39 agreed to be interviewed. An additional ten persons who were involved in the sexual exploitation trade as adolescents, were interviewed on the process of exiting the trade. A total of 33 females and five males were interviewed.
Once contact was established, individuals were asked if they would like to participate in this retrospective research study. If in agreement, interviews occurred in neutral locations, as many of the interview subjects had no desire to openly share this experience with their children or significant other. In addition, long distance phone interviews took place with participants in Halifax, Montreal and St. Catharines.
Interviews typically lasted from one to four hours. It became evident that the interview was a cathartic experience for the individual, as it often provided an opportunity for a sense of closure on these difficult times. To ensure confidentiality in the research report, in most cases pseudonyms were assigned to the interview subjects.
It was decided to approach the data analysis in a unique manner by bringing together an interdisciplinary team. Ten individuals from across Canada assembled for one week in Calgary to discuss and debate the trends, themes and life processes of those involved in the research. The team was evenly divided by gender and ranged in age from 25 to 55 years of age. All signed confidentiality agreements, and the names and other vital information were changed to protect those interviewed.
The team was comprised of individuals from the corporate, entrepreneurial, government, and non-profit sectors plus two individuals who were part of the research and had Youth In Care and Custody Network backgrounds. The degree of knowledge ranged from general to those who worked with sexual exploited street youth. Team members received condensed versions of the transcribed interviews as a tool to encourage discussion in reference to certain themes that occurred in the materials. This provided me with a vast range of perspectives and challenged many ingrained thoughts in working with this population. One team member from the corporate community challenged us to repeatedly admire, respect and always remember the resiliency of this population.
"It was truly an educational experience to be part of such an eclectic group of people. Despite the differences in our professional and personal lives, we were bound by the common goal to stop the sexual exploitation of our youth." (Fran Peeples, Interdisciplinary Team member, June 2001)
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