Coming across a hidden problem in an excluded population: professionals’ experiences of disclosures of sexual violence by young migrants
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Lund University Sweden
Halmstad University Sweden
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1374
Background and Objective:
International migration has been on the rise over the past decades and is expected to remain high. There is growing evidence on the vulnerability of young migrants including to sexual violence. With increasing numbers of young migrants at heightened risk for sexual violence and often lacking in family and social networks, there is an opportunity for professionals and service providers to be the recipients of disclosures of sexual violence. This study aimed to explore how professionals experience meeting young migrants who disclose experiences of sexual violence.

It was conducted using a qualitative design based on fourteen semi-structured in-depth interviews with professionals providing a range of services. The data was analysed using qualitative content analysis.

The overarching theme emerging from the study was “coming across a hidden problem in an excluded population” supported by three themes 1) perceiving young migrants as being structurally marginalised and vulnerable to sexual violence; 2) sexual violence is not the point – needing to support young migrants holistically; and 3) trying to help young people who are seen as betrayed by society. Professionals’ awareness of the complex vulnerability of young migrants and their lack of options for accessing services contributes to the strong sense of personal responsibility felt for trying to meet their needs. This coupled with the lack of guidelines for how to respond to these needs, including exposures to sexual violence, can lead to moral distress.

There is a need to strengthen support for professionals working with vulnerable young migrants including recognition of the ethical issues involved and establishment of more formal connections between organizations and service providers to make access more predictable. Improving support to professionals providing services to young migrants could facilitate their work supporting young migrants with experiences of sexual violence and improve those outcomes.

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