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From victim to survivor, to prosocial change agent: exploring the contributions made by survivors of human trafficking towards fighting against human trafficking.

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The study reported in this dissertation explores the transitional journeys of survivors of human trafficking in South Africa. There is a special focus on survivors of sex trafficking, and how they narrate their transition from victims, to survivors, to prosocial change agents. This study was conducted within an interpretivist paradigm with a qualitative research design. Through narrative inquiry, data was collected from the participants and transcribed verbatim. The study is unique in that it attempts to fill a gap in understanding about how survivors of human trafficking transition to become prosocial change agents while contributing to the fight against human trafficking in South Africa. Typically, research on human trafficking does not focus on the transition that trafficking survivors make to become prosocial change agents, but rather seems to focus on the tragedy and damaging effects of human trafficking. Findings from this study highlight participants’ resilience in surviving the devastating physical and psychological abuse and severe traumatic experiences from traffickers, which they have had to live with and manage for years. The participants explained how they used their past traumatic stories to create awareness and sensitise South African communities about the dangers of human trafficking. The participants also highlighted how they used their past traumatic experiences to provide hope to those currently trapped in human trafficking - for example, when undertaking late night street outreach programmes. The participants explained how the criminalisation of prostitution and prosecuting sex buyers could help reduce human trafficking and as such help fight against the phenomenon. Lastly, this study recommends, First, joining existing efforts against human trafficking is an effective way to combat human trafficking. Second, the criminalisation of prostitution and prosecuting sex buyers would reduce the demand for human trafficking. Third, South African Government and individuals to give Survivors of human trafficking practical support to enable Survivors to continue to be prosocial change agents in the fight against human trafficking in South Africa. Fourth, an ongoing empowerment and psychosocial strategy should be provided to those who have served their conviction terms in prison for human trafficking related offenses.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.