What is child sex trafficking?

According to United States law, anyone under the age of 18 who is sold for sex is considered a victim of trafficking. A child cannot consent to being sold for sex and in all instances, abusers are exploiting the vulnerabilities of the child for their own gratification.  


The trafficking of children for sexual purposes can includes the cross-border or internal, recruitment, transportation, harboring, transfer or receipt of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation.


Where does it happen?

This crime happens in every country in the world, in every state in the U.S., and affects children from all walks of life. Transporting children is not necessarily a part of the trafficking process. In such instances, children may be smuggled across national lines – to or from the US – or travel legally. Often, they are lured with promises of work, education or love. They may be promised the opportunity to send money back to their families.


How does it happen?

Children may be “recruited” by professional pimps and other brokers, who utilize complex psychological and manipulation tactics. Often, pimps target children from vulnerable and underserved populations. An increasing number of runaways – 1 in 6 out of the 18,500 runaways reporting missing in 2016 – were likely sex trafficking victims. 86% were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran.



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 sold. Child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) has been produced depicting the actual sexual violation of children as young as one week old.


Where does it happen?

Child sex trafficking is a problem across the United States and around the world.Child sex trafficking happens in all fifty states and affects boys and girls of all ages – as young as infants.



On February 22, draw a red X on your hand. Then post a photo or video and spread the word.

Awareness is an important first step in combating human trafficking. The simple act of drawing a red X on your hand will provoke questions and encourage discussions about slavery. Then get involved with our work to fight trafficking at the source.