What we MUST

KNOW

We are still at the nascent stages of combatting sex trafficking of children. Despite the growing and considerable efforts by many, sex trafficking of children remains HIDDEN, MISUNDERSTOOD and UNDER-ADDRESSED.

HIDDEN: Lack of awareness, coupled with a lack of comprehensive data, has greatly hindered eradication efforts. Until this crime and its victims are no longer invisible to most of us, we will not make real progress in identifying and rescuing victims and punishing perpetrators. Additionally, without a commitment to collect meaningful, reliable data, communities are unable to properly scale responses or measure progress.

MISUNDERSTOOD: Sex trafficked youth are often re-victimized by our legal and social service systems and our communities. Rather than being understood as exploited and abused victims who need services, these youth are often seen and mistreated as prostitutes, juvenile delinquents or "throwaways".

UNDER-ADDRESSED: There are many overlapping justice and social service system failures that need to be corrected. This will require unparalleled levels of collaborations, innovations and resources at the local, state and national levels.

EVEN THE LANGUAGE WE USE HAS DISTORTED THE TRUE NATURE OF THIS CRIME. WE NEED TO SEE IT AND ADDRESS IT FOR WHAT IT REALLY IS.

VICTIMS, not child prostitutes.
CHILD PREDATORS, not pimps.
CHILD RAPISTS AND PEDOPHILES, not johns or tricks.

We know and we must share with others that:

THERE ARE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF YOUTH IN THIS COUNTRY WHO ARE THE VICTIMS OF SEX TRAFFICKING. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has estimated that at least 100,000 children in the U.S. are commercially sexually exploited each year. Many experts believe this estimate is low. Whether the actual number of victims is a more or less, that number is not the barometer of need. We cannot wait until we have a sufficiently shocking, unequivocal number of victims before we respond.

12-YEARS OLD CHILDREN, AND EVEN YOUNGER, ARE BEING SOLD FOR SEX IN THE U.S. We know that girls are the primary victims, yet we cannot neglect boys, who are also victims, and the specific needs of LGBT youth, who are particularly vulnerable due to homelessness and rejection by their families. We also need to understand and address the needs of young adults, because sex trafficked children often do not escape "the life" when they become 18.

SEX TRAFFICKING OF CHILDREN IS EVERYWHERE. Potential cases of child sex trafficking have been reported from every state. Even without a concentrated effort to collect data, we know this is widespread and occurring in rural, urban and tribal communities across the nation.

We also know that the Internet has played an increasingly prominent role. Traffickers sell children on-line everyday. They also sell sex, including with children, in fake massage businesses, residential brothels, on public streets, at truck stops, strip clubs, hotels and motels, at sporting events, and in their own homes. And there are all kinds of traffickers, some are part of extensive crime networks and gangs and others are individuals, business owners, intimate partners and even family members.

THERE IS NO PROTOTYPICAL VICTIM. There is not as single profile of a victim. Victims are girls, boys, and LGBT youth, and they are children living at home, in foster care, attending school and on the streets. They are child from every ethnic, religious and socio-economic background. While each victim is a unique tragedy, there are factors that make some children and teens more vulnerable (see below) and there are warning signs that are strong indicators of a sex trafficked victim (see below).

SEX TRAFFICKERS TARGET THE MOST VULNERABLE CHILDREN in our communities, particularly children who are:

  • sexually exploited
  • runaways or homeless 
  • youth from our foster care or our child welfare systems

TRAFFICKERS ARE MASTER MANIPULATORS. They often recruit by presenting as a boyfriend or caretaker and selling a dream of a loving relationship. They then "break" or condition the child, introducing sexual exploitation and then control with abuse, isolation, threats and small indulgences. As a result, victims may form trauma bonds and experience complex emotions about leaving the relationship.

FOR SEX TRAFFICKERS, THIS IS A HIGH-PROFIT, LOW-RISK ENTERPRISE. Unlike illegal drugs and guns, traffickers can sell the same children and teens multiple times, everyday. This crime is also "under the radar," as most people don't know it's even happening or how to identify and get help for a potential victim. Traffickers often have a "stable" of three or more minors and force them each to meet an average nightly quota of $500 or more. If these quotas are met, these traffickers can make more than $500,000 in a year ($500 x 3 x 365 = $547,500).

MOST VICTIMS DO NOT RECEIVE THE SERVICES THEY NEED. First, many are never identified, even though while being trafficked they come in contact with law enforcement, medical providers, teachers, school officials and/or parents, neighbors and others. Second, victims often don’t identify themselves as victims, especially after forming a trauma bond with their trafficker. Third, even if these victims are identified and rescued, most communities do not have the shelter and services needed for these victims who often suffer from a combination of PTSD, drug additions, Stockholm syndrome and early, unaddressed sexual abuse.

WE REMAIN DEFICIENT IN EVERY ASPECT OF ADDRESSING THIS CRIME AND SERVING VICTIMS. There is a lot to be done. To succeed, we must develop and fund innovative, coordinated, and collaborative multi-system services and solutions in several areas including victim identification, rescue and restoration, prosecution of buyers and sellers, curbing demand, preventing child sexual abuse and eliminating the conditions that make children vulnerable to exploitation.

EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW THE NATIONAL HOTLINE NUMBER: 1-888-373-7888.
This is a national hotline dedicated exclusively to human trafficking. Trained call specialists are available 24/7 for those who need help or services, as well as for community members to report or better understand a potential trafficking situation.


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