University of Leicester
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Prevention of Modern Slavery in Sex Work: Study Protocol of a mixed methods project looking at the role of adult service websites

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posted on 2023-05-23, 13:47 authored by Rachel KeighleyRachel Keighley, Teela SandersTeela Sanders


The core challenge this study addressed is that Adult Services Websites (ASWs) are an extensive and pervasive feature of the digital world that facilitate the advertising, negotiation and purchase of sexual services yet are also considered to be harbourers of sexual exploitation, modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT) Giommoni L. et al. 2021, Milivojevic S. et al. 2020, Sanders, T., et al. 2018. Whilst awareness of cases of internet facilitated MSHT has entered the public and policy domain, little is known about the role and responsibilities of ASWs in this domain. Collaboratively with our partners, the findings from this study will first contribute to understanding how ASWs facilitate exploitation and second how they can become part of the prevention mechanisms and reporters of crimes.


We present the design of our mixed methods study, underpinned by a peer Action Learning Set (ALS) approach. By working closely with ten survivors of sexual exploitation from 7 countries, the peer group have informed the study through participation in the advisory group, instrument design, implementation, analysis and dissemination. A training and support needs analysis prior to engagement in the research project ascertained what skills people would bring, what they would need for further personal and career development and if there were any additional requirements to enable participation. We provided capacity building through a bespoke training package over the project’s lifetime.


Conducting a peer-researcher ALS project informs the research topic by both empowering survivors of sexual exploitation, whilst engaging with their expertise and lived experience to shape the methods and focus. The summative evaluation of our methods informs wider peer research methodologies, little utilised in the field of MSHT research. Thus, this research produces evidence which acknowledges survivors as experts with value towards social science research.


Prevention of Modern Slavery within Sex Work: the role of Adult Services Websites

Arts and Humanities Research Council

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School of Criminology, University of Leicester


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