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Sexually exploited youths in the Swedish legal system: Conditions of victimhood
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Child and Youth Studies. Stockholm University.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6982-3978
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores how the Swedish legal system, specifically the police and district courts, understand and construct cases of human trafficking for sexual purposes and procuring with under-age victims. It draws on police investigative interviews and court decisions in 22 pronounced district court sentences, involving 36 female youths. Theoretically the thesis primarily builds on social constructionism and the sociology of childhood. Methodologically it builds on coding of forensic interviews, narrative analysis and discourse analysis.

Study I explores the informativeness of 24 of the 36 adolescents when interviewed by the police. It shows that the adolescents were informative yet evasive, specifically when asked open questions. Experiences of violence and force as well as interviews conducted soon after the police intervention further contributed to evasiveness. Also evasiveness seemed intimately connected to circumstances in each unique case.

Study II scrutinises the image of the ideal trafficking victim by asking how the issue of responsibility is handled when police interviews turn to prostitution. It also analyses which interactive and narrative conditions, related to agency and stake, apply for talk in this specific institutional setting. The findings suggest that in order to sort out the ‘real’ victims, the interrogator needs to pull apart the two categories ‘victim’ and ‘prostitute’ even if there may be problems with this clear-cut distinction since the categories tend to blend together. Further, in this institutional setting to talk about sex can be problematic as it may undermine the victim narrative instead creating a subject with interests.

Study III explores how Swedish district courts assess the credibility of alleged victims of human trafficking for sexual purposes and the reliability of their testimonies. The findings indicate that the judges base their assessments on the Swedish Supreme Courts’ criteria of how to understand reliability and credibility but they seemed also to be influenced by extra-legal factors relating to victims’ behaviour. Further, the findings imply that the judges used the Supreme Court’s criteria to argue both for and against credibility. By so doing, their arguments supported the decision reached irrespective of how the adolescents reported or what impression they made.

In brief this thesis can be said to point to a legal dilemma when law on paper is applied in practice as each unique adolescent must be recognized by the authorities as fitting the administrative category ‘victim’. When put into practice, categories are rarely neat and clear hence such categorizing becomes a phenomenon negotiated in interaction. Also, this legal context sets up limits and possibilities for the adolescents’ agency and this too can be said to have a bearing on if she is, or is not, constructed as a victim. In short, this thesis shows certain conditions of victimhood.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Child and Youth Studies, Stockholm University , 2015.
Keyword [en]
sexual exploitation, human trafficking, procuring, adolescent, youth, investigative interviews, court decisions, narrative analysis, discourse analysis, ideal victim, stake, responsibility, categorization, credibility, reliability, victimhood, agency
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-116791ISBN: 978-91-7649-172-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-116791DiVA: diva2:808287
Public defence
2015-06-15, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
Människohandel/koppleri med barn och unga för sexuella ändamål Vad går att lära av rättsväsendet och brottsoffrens erfarenheter?
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Submitted.

Forskningsfinansiär: Brottsoffermyndigheten genom Brottsofferfonden.

Available from: 2015-05-22 Created: 2015-04-27 Last updated: 2015-06-12Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Adolescent girls exploited in the sex trade: informativeness and evasiveness in investigative interviews
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Adolescent girls exploited in the sex trade: informativeness and evasiveness in investigative interviews
2015 (English)In: Police Practice & Research, ISSN 1561-4263, E-ISSN 1477-271X, Vol. 16, no 3, 197-210 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study explores the informativeness of 24 adolescents exploited in sex trade in Sweden when they were interviewed by police officers about their experiences. The questions and responses were analysed using coding types developed for research on forensic interviews. Qualitative analyses of the questions resulting in evasive responses and the court files were also done. The findings show that the adolescents were informative yet evasive, specifically when asked open questions. Experiences of violence and interviews conducted soon after the police intervention may result in higher levels of evasiveness. Concurrently, evasiveness seems to be intimately connected to unique circumstances in each case.

Keyword
investigative interviews, children, human trafficking, procurement
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Psychology
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-98543 (URN)10.1080/15614263.2014.880839 (DOI)
Available from: 2014-01-07 Created: 2014-01-07 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
2. ”What happened when you came to Sweden?": Attributing responsibility in police interviews with alleged adolescent human trafficking victims
Open this publication in new window or tab >>”What happened when you came to Sweden?": Attributing responsibility in police interviews with alleged adolescent human trafficking victims
2014 (English)In: Narrative Inquiry, ISSN 1387-6740, E-ISSN 1569-9935, Vol. 24, no 2, 181-199 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Depicted as someone without agency, with no free will and completely in the hands of the trafficker, the ideal trafficking victim can be seen as diametrically different from the guilty prostitute. By analysing how responsibility and victimhood are negotiated in forensic interviews with alleged adolescent trafficking victims, this article scrutinises this image by asking how victim-status is handled when questions turn to sex and prostitution and which interactive and narrative conditions, related to agency, stake and interest, apply for talk in this specific institutional setting. Our findings suggest that in order to sort out the "real" victims, the interviewer need to pull apart the two categories victim and prostitute even if there may be substantive problems with this clear-cut distinction since the categories tend to blend together. Further, talk about sex can be problematic for the interactants as it may undermine the victim narrative instead creating a subject with interests.

Keyword
narrative analysis, human trafficking, ideal victim, stake, responsibility, categorization
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-111831 (URN)10.1075/ni.24.2.01lin. (DOI)000348131100001 ()
Available from: 2015-01-08 Created: 2015-01-08 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
3. Legal assessments of victims of human trafficking for sexual purposes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Legal assessments of victims of human trafficking for sexual purposes
2016 (English)In: Behavioral sciences & the law (Print), ISSN 0735-3936, E-ISSN 1099-0798, Vol. 34, no 1, 218-233 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The present study investigated how Swedish district court judges assessed child victims' credibility and the reliability of their testimony in cases of alleged human trafficking for sexual purposes. Court files from 12 different cases, involving 16 alleged child victims (aged 13–17 years old), all of them girls, were qualitatively analyzed with particular attention paid to how the judges described credibility and reliability. Results indicated that, although the judges' assessments to a large extent were based on the Swedish Supreme Court's criteria for credibility and reliability, they were applied somewhat arbitrarily and subjectively. They were also applied as if obvious and grounded on shared experiences, although their meaning was never explored. The way that credibility was assessed may also reinforce gender and victim stereotypes. Moreover, there seems to exist a confusion surrounding the credibility and reliability concepts, as they were sometimes used interchangeably despite the intention that they are two different assessments. Overall, an apparent need exists to increase judges' awareness that their subjective impressions should decrease when legitimizing judicial decisions.

National Category
Psychology Law
Research subject
Child and Youth Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-116803 (URN)10.1002/bsl.2228 (DOI)000375400600013 ()
Available from: 2015-04-28 Created: 2015-04-28 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved

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