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  • Writer's pictureElijah Ugoh

Child Sex Trafficking in America: What Does it Mean and How Does it Happen?

Child Sex Trafficking in America
Child Sex Trafficking in America

While any child is at risk, children with greater social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities constitute a greater proportion of child sex trafficking victims. More than 90% of victims are females.

Did you know that Sex trafficking is reported in all 50 states? As of 2014, we learned that 1 out of every 6 runaways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) was likely a child sex trafficking victim. Today, sex trafficking is a national problem, because the network of traffickers and their clients continues to grow at an alarming rate. While laws like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 exist to fight this crime, not much progress has been recorded, especially when you juxtapose milestones achieved and ongoing work with the volume of work that still needs to be done.

We can attribute the growth of sex trafficking in our society to both societal and governmental factors, largely bordering on negligence and poor nationwide awareness on the subject (many victims of sexual exploitation can hardly tell that they’re being recruited until reality dawns on them). This means that we need to talk about it more; educate people, support more survivors, take more active legal actions, prosecute more offenders, and keep the helplines open always.

What is Child Sex Trafficking?

According to the Department of Justice, child sex trafficking, also known as minor sex trafficking or sexual exploitation of children, refers to the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a minor for a commercial sex act. Offenders of this crime recruit, force, and coerce victims into the act by using various manipulation methods.

There are hardly any two cases of child sex trafficking that have exactly the same narratives, but we know that traffickers usually start by creating and cultivating a (loving or romantic) relationship with the victims or outrightly coercing them into commercial sex work.

Once that is established, and the subjects appear independent and fully open to their lovers/caretakers, they are then turned out to the streets and forced to exchange sex for money. At this point, the offender — usually called “pimp”, “daddy”, or “gorilla” — begins to use a variety of manipulative methods to gain and keep their control over the girls.

Who is at Risk?

Even though any child is at risk, child sex trafficking disproportionately affects vulnerable children; the poor, homeless, maltreated, kids with low self-esteem, runaways from troubled homes, LGBTQ, sexually abused children, illegal migrants, out-of-school kids, those lacking parental support and care, and drug addicts. Traffickers target their victims at public places like night clubs, strip clubs, massage parlors, hotels, brothels, large events, bus stops, streets (some streets and communities are famous for sex trafficking activities), schools, group homes, residential programs, shelters, and several other locations and events where vulnerable people could be found.

Child sex trafficking also affects children living with their families and their homes. Contrary to the commonly held notion that human trafficking/sex trafficking only involves kidnapping or coercion, reports have also shown that some parents and guardians sell their children to traffickers or deceive them into trafficking. Many times, poverty plays a significant part in this.

Advancements in technological, particularly the internet and mobile devices, make sex trafficking even easier for traffickers to recruit more victims and reach more clients. The internet provides a very convenient international marketing channel; over half of people involved in commercial sex services, particularly DMST victims, meet their handlers or pimps online. And those who buy trafficked children for sex are increasingly turning to online channels to patronize pimps.

How Does it Happen?

When we seek to prevent child sex trafficking, the best place to start is often first understanding how it happens. Child sex trafficking investigations reveal that traffickers apply several tactics to reach and lure victims into sex trafficking.

Some traffickers try to form a romantic or friendly relationship with victims and cultivate their trust before switching; some may act as a father-figure who provides family, care, love, and support, which the victims never had before; a pimp can equally manipulate young girls into willingly engaging in commercial sexual services, and then collect the money they make; other times, traffickers come with false promises of big modeling, singing, dancing, or acting gigs, only for the girls to realize they’ve been tricked.

Essentially, sex trafficking victims are often glued by the assurance of something of value like shelter, clothes, money, jewelry, drugs, and sometimes, the need for love and care. In gaining control over victims, traffickers may use extreme force and threats to evict or expose the sexual activities of victims. This is why they often find it very difficult to leave or seek help; they don’t know who to trust, plus society already tags them with a bad label. The only safety net they’ve come to terms with is their trafficker’s web. The story of one Alyssa Beck, covered by CBS, provides more insights into how trafficking is perpetrated in America.

What Can We Do?

There are several ways to check sex trafficking in our societies. Besides using any of the available hotlines to report suspected child sex trafficking activities, we can support awareness activities, donate to survivor care organizations or join actively in the field. See our blog post on how anyone can support the fight against sex trafficking of minors.

About the Mission Haven

We are committed to providing comprehensive and transformational Haven of Healing to victims and survivors of sexual exploitation, domestic violence, and sex trafficking. We believe that these children still have a chance at life at its best, and we need every support we can get to provide the best support possible continually.

Our goal is to provide them with this assistance, including legal support where necessary. With your generous donations and support, we can continue to provide a truly safe haven of hope and healing equipped with essential resources to lift victims and survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking. To give, volunteer, or become a partner, feel free to contact us today.


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