Being able to tell the signs of domestic minor sex trafficking or child sex trafficking is crucial in fighting the continued perpetration of the crime in our societies. It could even be the way you can help save a life today. We believe that staying informed isn’t just a step in the right direction; it is a vital step to take.
What is Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking?
Domestic minor sex trafficking, otherwise known as DMST, is the commercial sexual exploitation of children. This act typically involves the buying, selling, or exchanging of sexual services for money, other material stuff, or something of value (e.g., shelter, food, and drugs). DMST may take the form of child prostitution, child pornography, transactional sex, or stripping. In the majority of cases, the child/teenager or victim involved is forced into the act to make money — all of which usually goes to their trafficker or pimp.
Sex trafficking has been reported as a major form of human trafficking in the United States besides forced labor. But it doesn’t end there; the commercial sexual exploitation of minors is a fast-growing form of human trafficking today — and a major market for traffickers is child pornography. Our ability to combat this menace as a society is hinged on many factors, one of which is the ability to identify and report any case of domestic minor sex trafficking you see around you. Yes, DMST has been reported in all 50 states, so it could be happening right under your nose, without you even knowing.
Signs of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking
DMST is often perpetrated as a hidden crime, and many young people (their families included) who are affected may not even see themselves as victims. This is because, many people still do not see child prostitution as a crime, and the young people involved may be uncooperative and sometimes hostile to help.
1. An older boyfriend or an unrelated caretaker
One of the easiest ways to spot minor sext trafficking is when you see a significantly older adult acting as the boyfriend or supposed father of a teenager or child that’s totally unrelated to them. Often, you’ll see an unequal power dynamic in play, which is how they are able to keep the child under control.
2. Poor social life
Sexually trafficked children often have very little or no interactions with the outside world. If they are immigrants, it might even be harder to identify them since they rarely leave the house or have no time for social activities.
3. Random aggressive behavior or change in mood/behavior
DMST is exploitative, and children in such situations can be aggressive sometimes; one, they see themselves as victimized by the public. Secondly, they are going through a traumatic experience, which may sometimes make them unfriendly or manifest mood or behavior changes.
4. Expenses material possessions
Children are prohibited from engaging in and profiting from commercial sexual activities. However, traffickers have a way of exploiting children by buying them expensive jewelry, phones, clothes, and other material things. Some exploited children are runaways or drug addicts, in which case, the trafficker keeps them under control with drugs, provision of shelter, food, etc.
5. They are runaways or homeless
You may not realize it, but children who fall into this category are highly vulnerable to traffickers. A particular group of teenagers in this category is those who identify as LGBT. This makes them a high target for traffickers. Again, children who have a troubled family may be trying to run away from home, while unconsciously running into the arms of traffickers on the streets.
6. Family history in commercial sex services
Another strong indication that a child is being sexually trafficked is if they come from a family where commercial sex is normalized. Some parents do give their children into prostitution as a way of raising money for the family. You can read up on more warning signs of trafficking.
What can you do?
In helping fight domestic minor sex trafficking in the U.S, the first and most important thing anyone can do is stay informed. This means you can spot child sex trafficking in play, and know when and where to report a trafficking case. You can report any trafficking case around you to the U.S Immigration and Customs enforcement. You can reach them at 866-347-2423 (TTY for hearing impaired: 802-872-6196) or visit the ICE Tip Line.
You can also call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-3737-888, or file a confidential online report at https://humantraffickinghotline.org/report-trafficking. This way, we can all make our communities safer for our children. To stay informed on current happenings or learn of other ways you may contribute, feel free to contact us at Mission Haven today.