CP TIG Week: Karen Countryman-Roswurm and Bailey Patton on Qualitative Research Methods as an Empowering Practice with Marginalized Youth

We are Karen Countryman-Roswurm, Executive Director, and Bailey Patton, Community Outreach Coordinator, at Wichita State University’s Center for Combating Human Trafficking (CCHT). CCHT provides education, training, consultation, research, and public policy services to build the capacity for effective anti-trafficking prevention, intervention, and aftercare responses.

A primary service of CCHT is training organizations on The Lotus Victim to Vitality Anti-Trafficking ModelTM – a model that includes practice tools such as the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Risk and Resiliency Assessment (DMST-RRA). The DMST-RRA is based on interviews with 258 youth and is intended to assist direct-service providers in 1) increasing identification of young people at-risk of and/or subjugated to DMST; and 2) providing individualized strengths-based prevention and intervention strategies. During the development of the DMST-RRA, we learned invaluable lessons on engaging youth in empowering practices through qualitative research.

Lessons Learned:

  • Allow the process to be organically healing – This could be the first time the participant has spoken or reflected on their experience. The process of sharing one’s story can be empowering and healing when done in safe and non-exploitive environment.
  • Let the participant lead – Be flexible and fully engaged in the process. Allow the participant to take the interview where it needs to go. Do not let your desire for information or research curiosities define the experience for the participant.
  • Reflect the participant’s words back to them – By hearing their words repeated back to them, participants have the opportunity to gain insight, process, and reach their own epiphany.
  • Allow participants the opportunity to find and use their own voice – Do not try to define the experience for the participant. Let them give words to their feelings, emotions and thoughts. Telling participants what you think of their situation is disempowering.
  • Offer Validation – Help relieve the participant of self-blame and guilt for their past experiences and encourage them to focus on resiliency factors and strength.

Hot Tip:

  • Towards the development of the DMST-RRA, facilitating, transcribing, and coding qualitative interviews – the real lives of those at-risk of and/or subjugated to DMST—was at times painfully heart wrenching. Therefore, 1) Have supportive, competent partners. Tara Gregory with Wichita State University’s Center for Community Support and Research was extremely helpful during this process. 2) Recognize yourself as a “wounded healer.” Whether engaging in therapeutic and/or research practices, we must consistently seek to heal ourselves in a manner that enables us to utilize our full professional selves.

Rad Resources:

  • Wichita State University, Center for Combating Human Trafficking. Our website includes resources such as Sharing the Message of Human Trafficking: A Public Awareness and Media Guide to assist those interested in joining the anti-trafficking movement.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating CP TIG Week with our colleagues in the Community Psychology Topical Interest Group. The contributions all week come from CP TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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