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  • Writer's pictureElijah Ugoh

What are the Risk Factors for Child Sex Trafficking and Forced Labor?

What are the Risk Factors for Child Sex Trafficking and Forced Labor?
What are the Risk Factors for Child Sex Trafficking and Forced Labor?

Risk factors, in general, describe something that increases the risks or susceptibility to an adverse condition. For instance, cigarette smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer. In the context of child sex trafficking, risk factors are traits that increase the chances of a child experiencing or being exploited for child sex trafficking and forced labor. These risk factors increase the exposure of victims and provide better opportunities for perpetrators of child sex trafficking. In this post, we’ll discuss the risk factors that may expose your child to traffickers.

No typical profile exists of kids who are victims of sex trafficking and forced labor. However, when we consider and compare the backgrounds of children who have been abused, we discover common factors that make them more at risk.


Research reveals that worldwide, 152 million children are victims of child labor, and 48% of them are less than 12 years old. Strong evidence indicates that the primary risk factor for child labor is poverty.

The lack of basic resources like food, shelter, and clothing makes children, especially young girls, vulnerable to trafficking. Research shows that Human trafficking perpetrators often target this demographic since a good number of them are desperate to alleviate their financial problems by any means.

Traffickers may even approach poor parents directly requesting to recruit one or more of their children with a promise to feed and educate them. In reality, these children are forced to work in a hazardous environment and are often deprived of education Sometimes, parents are forced to sell off one child, usually, a girl child, to be able to feed the rest or to pay off a debt the family owes.

History of Sexual Abuse

In a study to determine the risk factors for domestic child sex trafficking (DMST) in the U.S, 50 percent of participants trafficked as youths reported rape as the most dominant risk factor. Childhood sexual abuse ranked second on the list, followed by emotional abuse.

Sexual abuse alienates a child, making them feel unloved, invisible, and broken. It warps their perception of how families and society work. Traffickers exploit these feelings to their advantage. They carefully conceal their motives and pretend to care about the children enough to want to rescue them from any unfavorable situation.

Family Dysfunction

Unstable or dysfunctional families are not healthy for raising children. Children that grow up in families where verbal and physical abuse are common are more at risk of being trafficked. The verbal and physical abuse common in such families may take a toll on the emotional and mental health of the children.

Often, one or both parents may be absent, either willfully or because they are in jail. This could force an older child to take up the parental role and cater to his younger siblings. This brings about pressure, which may eventually expose the child to traffickers for child labor, and if a girl, child sex trafficking.

Illegal Migration

Illegal migrants are at risk of being exploited by human traffickers. Because these immigrants are not registered as legal immigrants, they have bleak prospects for job opportunities and are therefore willing to settle for any available job, including involuntary servitude, forced labor, forced marriage, and prostitution. Displaced persons, as well as refugees, are equally at risk.

The sad part is that most times, these immigrants believe they have better odds of survival in the guest country and would rather remain abused by a pimp than return to their home country.

Child Welfare System

A study revealed that at least 50% of child sex trafficking victims have at one time been under the child welfare system. The transience of the foster care system, coupled with negligence on the part of caregivers, makes children in welfare systems especially vulnerable. Some researchers have also shown that as a result of their increased vulnerability, children in foster care are easy targets for traffickers.

Children in foster care or run-away children may not be having their emotional and basic needs fulfilled. The traffickers strategically exploit this by using monetary incentives and the false promise of a better life to lure these children into prostitution or forced labor.

About Mission Haven

Combating child trafficking entails eliminating all these factors that make children vulnerable, and it is clearly not a one-man job. Parents, as well as every individual in society, have important roles to play in ending this menace.

The Mission Haven runs a fully-equipped shelter that takes in and caters to the mental, social, and economic needs of kids and teenagers who have been exposed to all forms of sexual abuse and forced labor, including commercial sex exploitation and sex trafficking. To give, volunteer, or become a partner, please contact us today.


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