Date of Conferral
Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is the sexual exploitation of minors
for commercial profit. The intersection between sex trafficking victimization and substance use has not yet been explored in clinical research and is not reflected in current clinical treatment of survivors when they exit their exploitation. The research question explored in this study focused on the substance use treatment considerations and challenges clinical social workers face when treating survivors of CSEC living in Massachusetts. Subquestions included understanding how cumulative trauma from CSEC impacts substance use treatment and how the coercive use of substances aimed at maintaining victim submission impacts substance use treatment. Contemporary trauma theory was the theoretical basis that informed this action research study. The sample included 5 clinical social work practitioners who had experience working with victims and survivors of CSEC. Data collected through a focus group was coded, compared, and analyzed for major and emergent themes using the constant comparison method. The key findings of the study include the lack of training and experience specific to the population, the impact of trauma, the effect of CSEC on substance use treatment, and the need for specialized treatment services. The findings of the study may create positive social change by increasing knowledge of the dynamics of substance use treatment with CSEC survivors, informing best practices for social worker professionals working with this population, and advising the development of trauma-informed substance use treatment for CSEC survivors.