What promotes engagement in formal and informal help relationships? Perspectives of commercially sexually exploited youth

Roni Eyal-Lubling, Ayelet Prior, Einat Peled, Guy Shilo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The literature on help engagement of commercially sexually exploited youth has tended to focus on the challenges of such relationships and has been mostly grounded in studies of professional help relations from professional perspectives. Objective: This study is part of a large-scale study on help seeking and help related experiences from the perspectives of commercially sexually exploited youth (CSEY). This paper focuses specifically on the beneficial characteristics of help as seen by CSEY. Participants and setting: Fifty commercially sexually exploited youths, in the present or in the past. Methods: In-depth semi-structured interviews, conducted and analyzed in accordance with the principles of Constructivist Grounded Theory. Results: The study identified four characteristics of beneficial help that were salient both to help relations with professionals and in relations with peers and friends: Continuity and long-term ties; Sharing similarities; brokering help by others; “doing family,” and “performing home.” Conclusions: The significance of the various help experiences appeared to be more a function of how the help was provided and the nature of the relationship, rather than whether it was provided by formal or informal helpers. Nonetheless, the study underscores the critical importance of care and support by peers and friends and calls for further examination of the ways these might be integrated into services and programs for youths who are subject to commercial sexual exploitation. It also cautions not to “professionalize” informal friendships.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107661
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Jun 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd


  • Commercial sexual exploitation
  • Commercially sexually exploited youth
  • Friends and peers
  • Help-seeking
  • Intersectionality
  • Youth who sell sex


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