Background: Previous research points to the many challenges that help providers who support commercially sexually exploited youth encounter in their professional work—yet little is known about how they overcome these challenges, particularly with regard to youth of diverse social backgrounds. Objective: The present study applied the conceptual frameworks of help-seeking and intersectionality to explore the professional practices that help providers employ when forging a help relationship with commercially sexually exploited youth. Participants and setting: Israeli help providers who work with commercially sexually exploited youth at various social services. Method: In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted, and analyzed using constructivist grounded theory approach. Findings: We identified six major guiding principles that support the participants' processes of forging a help relationship with commercially sexually exploited youth: Do not assume that the youth view their involvement in commercial sexual exploitation as problematic; Continuously attempt to gain the youth's trust; Start from the point where the youth are; Be available at all times, and maintain a steady long-term relationship; Treat commercially sexually exploited youth as agentic individuals and encourage them to lead the process of establishing a help relationship; Similarity in social backgrounds of help providers and commercially sexually exploited youth promotes youth's engagement in the help relationship. Conclusions: Assuming the co-existence of benefit and harm in commercial sexual exploitation is essential to forging a help relationship with the youth. Applying the intersectional lens to practice in this field can help preserve the delicate balance between victimhood and agency, thereby enhancing help processes.
- Commercial sexual exploitation
- Commercially sexually exploited youth
- Marginalized youth
- Youth who sell sex