Children are sexually exploited everyday. No matter where you live, chances are it is happening nearby.
Some victims are sold for sex by their parents or family members, some are lured with false promises of jobs, and some become romantically involved with someone who then exploits them. Sex trafficking, considered a type of human trafficking, is when someone is traded for the purpose of sexual slavery or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. Traffickers generate hundreds of billions of dollars globally each year.
What is commercial sexual exploitation?
Sexual trafficking includes the commercial sexual exploitation of children and occurs when individuals buy, trade, or sell sexual acts with a child. Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking—regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates 1 out of 7 endangered runaways were likely child sex trafficking victims.1
The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, with 5.4 million of them being children.2 The commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is an egregious human rights, public health, and criminal justice violation.
What can we do about it?
Often, CSEC is viewed differently than child sexual abuse. Few consider it to be the same problem, and focus on intervention instead of prevention. CSEC is actually a form of child sexual abuse. The National Institute of Justice reports that 70-90% of children who are sexually trafficked, were sexually abused in a non-commercial manner prior to being trafficked.3 Recognizing this direct link between CSEC and child sexual abuse, we believe that preventing or intervening early in child sexual abuse will interrupt the path to CSEC. Evidence suggests it is possible to train adults to prevent and intervene in child sexual abuse.
Many victims of CSEC being exploited by their families or family friends for monetary gain live at home and attend school. Despite the exploitation, these children still interact with educators, youth-serving professionals, and the public every day. Training community members, teachers, and youth-serving professionals to recognize the signs and intervene in sexual abuse and exploitation can help thwart the progression of commercial exploitation for some children, and will help ensure that these victims receive services they need.
Are you looking for ways to educate yourself or your organization on child sexual abuse and the commercial exploitation of children? Darkness to Light offers training about the root cause of commercial sexual exploitation and why preventing sexual abuse is important to reducing the risk of children being sexually exploited. This training is an hour long and can be taken online or in-person. Get trained now.
Listening to survivor stories can help give us a deeper understanding of the experience of child sexual abuse, and why prevention is so important. Watch Holly’s story below for her first-hand account of her experience of being sexually trafficked as a child and the connection it had to her prior sexual abuse.
1. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
2. The Polaris
3. National Institute of Justice. (2007) Commercial sexual exploitation of children: What do we know and what do we do about it? (Publication NCJ 215733). US Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs.
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