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Crime, Research Development

New study examines the support needs and barriers of victim-survivors of sexual exploitation in Australia

Australian Institute of Criminology 2 mins read

Today the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) released research exploring the support needs of victim-survivors of sexual exploitation in Australia, and the barriers that exist to support them. The report, undertaken in collaboration with Australian Red Cross and Project Respect, highlights the need for flexible and responsive service delivery to address the complex and varied needs of victim-survivors.

AIC Deputy Director Dr Rick Brown said the findings fill an important gap in the evidence around the support needs of victim-survivors of sexual exploitation in Australia, and the challenges in support provision.

“Victim-survivors of sexual exploitation in Australia often struggle to receive the support they need to recover.

“This research sheds light on the challenges they experience, along with the issues they commonly seek support for. In doing so, it highlights the importance of holistic, individually tailored, appropriately funded and accessible interventions,” Dr Brown said.  

Sexual exploitation in Australia: Understanding victim-survivor support needs and barriers to support provision analyses information from 50 victim-survivors of sexual exploitation in Australia.

The support needs that were most commonly identified among victim-survivors include those relating to financial hardship, mental health, social and community engagement and housing and accommodation. Other needs included legal, visa and safety issues, employment issues, physical health and domestic and family violence.

“Critically, most victim-survivors had multiple and intertwined needs, with challenges compounded when some needs could not be addressed”

Barriers to supporting victim-survivors of sexual exploitation were also identified at the individual, interrelationship and systemic levels. These included victim-survivor visa and residency status, access to suitable and consistent accommodation, as well as internalised shame and fear of retribution from perpetrators.

Executive Director of Project Respect Carolyn Gowers said this important report from the AIC highlights the complexity in support needs faced by victim-survivors of sexual exploitation.

“Recovery journeys for victim-survivors aren’t often swift. As this report demonstrates, timely access to tailored support services that are sufficiently funded must be prioritised to address the intersectional recovery needs of victim-survivors impacted by sexual exploitation that has been perpetrated against them in Australia,” said Executive Director of Project Respect Carolyn Gowers.

Australian Red Cross Senior Manager – Anti Trafficking Response Lina Garcia-Daza noted that recognition of multiple variables is essential in a tailored response.

“In the majority of circumstances, addressing the needs of victim-survivors of sexual exploitation requires long-term supports and assistance that go well beyond what is available through the time-limited nature of the Support for Trafficked People Program, and may also be impacted by systemic barriers. Lack of income, immigration status, housing, language barriers, drug and alcohol and mental health issues may all have an impact on the recovery journey of victim-survivors.”

The report is available on the AIC website.



Human trafficking

Media teams are encouraged to include the following (or similar) resources and phrases when referring to instances of human trafficking and modern slavery:

  • If you think someone may be a victim of human trafficking and slavery, or something is not quite right, call the AFP on 131AFP (131 237).
  • Stopping human trafficking and slavery is everyone’s responsibility.
  • You have a right to choose if you marry, who you marry, and when you marry.
    • If you are in, or at risk of, forced marriage, you can contact My Blue Sky ( for free, confidential legal advice.
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