All I was Thinking About was Shattered: Women's Experiences Transitioning Out of Anti-Trafficking Shelters During the COVID-19 Lockdown in Uganda


Human trafficking is an egregious violation of fundamental human rights and a global challenge. The long-term harms to survivors' physical, psychological and social wellbeing are profound and well documented, and yet there are few studies exploring how to best promote resilience and holistic healing. This is especially true within shelter programs (where the majority of anti-trafficking services are provided) and during the transition out of residential shelter care, which is often a sensitive and challenging process. The current study begins to address this gap by centering the lived experiences of six women residing in a trafficking-specific shelter in Uganda as they unexpectedly transitioned back to their home communities due to the COVID-19 lockdown. We explore this pivotal moment in participants' post-trafficking journey, focusing on how these women described and interpreted their rapidly changing life circumstances-including leaving the shelter, adjusting back to the community setting, and simultaneously navigating the uncertainties of a global pandemic. Four core themes emerged from the analysis: economic insecurities as a cross-cutting hardship; intensification of emotional and physical symptoms; social disruptions; and sources of hope and resilience. By centering their personal stories of struggle and strength, we hope to elevate survivors' own accounts and draw on their insights to identify actionable considerations for future programming.

human trafficking, community reintegration, mental health, qualitative research, COVID-19, SURVIVORS, TRAUMA, GIRLS, CARE, Social Work, Women's Studies
Namy, S., Namakula, S., Nabachwa, A. G., Ollerhead, M., Tsai, L. C., Kemitare, J., Bolton, K., Nkwanzi, V., & Carlson, C. (2022). “All I was Thinking About was Shattered”: Women’s Experiences Transitioning Out of Anti-Trafficking Shelters During the COVID-19 Lockdown in Uganda. In Affilia (Vol. 38, Issue 2, pp. 278–293). SAGE Publications.