What is child sex trafficking?

Child sex trafficking occurs when someone under 18 years old is bought or sold for sexual purposes. Children are also victims of sex trafficking when they engage in sex in return for basic needs such as food, shelter, safety, or pocket money to purchase consumer goods. A child cannot consent to be sold for sex. In all instances abusers are exploiting the vulnerabilities of the child.

 

Where does it happen?

Trafficking takes place globally and within the United States. It can happen in cities, suburbs, and rural areas and affects children from all walks of life. In the United States, a person does not need to cross international or even state borders to be considered a victim of trafficking. Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states.

 

Who does it affect?

There is no one "face of human trafficking." Children are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, religion, education, or national identity. While it can happen to any child, often traffickers target children from vulnerable and underserved populations. 

 

How does it happen?

Children may be recruited by professional traffickers and other brokers, who utilize complex psychological and manipulation tactics to lure children in. This process is called grooming. Children as young as 12 and 13 are integrated into the sex industry and are bought and sold alongside adults. The term commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) refers to any commercial transactions involving the sexual abuse of children under the age of 18. This includes abuse that has been recorded in photographs or videos and then sold. Child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) has been produced depicting the actual sexual violation of children as young as one week old.

 

How many children are victims of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation?

Due to its clandestine nature and the lack of uniform and disaggregated data, making accurate calculations on the scale of sexual exploitation of children can be difficult and misleading. The evidence which does exist, however, suggests that the number of children who are victimized is increasing. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 40.3 million people worldwide are victims, with 1 in 4 being a child. Human trafficking as an illegal industry is thought to generate billions of US dollars worldwide and it is believed that nearly 60% of all trafficking worldwide is for sexual exploitation, with over 20% of the victims being children. The need for greater and more meaningful data is something that ECPAT strongly advocates for.