“You come up from the ashes, and you’re like a phoenix.” Survivors of sex trafficking define resilience

Logan Knight, Susan Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The study of resilience has largely relied on definitions and conceptualizations of resilience produced by academia, with little of the knowledge produced being grounded in the experience and perspectives of those outside academia. The voices of marginalized and stressed populations are particularly rarely integrated into sanctioned institutional discourses of knowledge, reproducing inequality where these institutions have influence. Specifically, little research has explored the ways in which survivors of sex trafficking define and conceptualize resilience. Thus, academic inquiry into survivor resilience may risk missing what is important to survivors themselves regarding the issue. Using thematic analysis, this study explored survivors’ responses to the question “What does ‘resilience’ mean to you?”, which resulted in five themes: resilience as (1) resistance, (2) transition, (3) a sustained force over time, (4) transformation, and (5) resources. Participants defined resilience as being primarily a person-centered phenomenon, rather than a process-centered phenomenon, that was the output of their inherent and enduring personal power to survive or overcome and adversity, and to shape their lives in preferred ways despite adversity. Differing from academic definitions of resilience in several significant ways, participants conceptualized resilience as being promoted by external resources and opportunities but existent even in the absence of such resource and opportunities. Findings suggest that for resilience inquiry to resonate with survivors, it must first acknowledge the inherent power of survivors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-441
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • Sex trafficking
  • human trafficking
  • qualitative research
  • resilience
  • survivors


Dive into the research topics of '“You come up from the ashes, and you’re like a phoenix.” Survivors of sex trafficking define resilience'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this