RESEARCH AND REPORTS
Commercial sexual exploitation is a term that covers all people younger than 18 years old whose sexual abuse is subject to a commercial transaction. The term child includes both pre-pubescent and pubescent children. Commercial sexual exploitation of children includes the population of pre-pubescent children who are raped and whose abuse is then captured in a photograph or video and sold. This is called “child abuse imagery.” Children as young as infants are subject to this abuse. In addition to the sale of abusive images, pre-pubescent children are also sold for commercial sexual abuse, by family members, acquaintances or caretakers. Children who have reached puberty, starting as young as 12 or 13 years old, are incorporated into the adult sex industry. There is no universal number about how many of these children there are in the United States.
In the U.S., the sensationalism of commercial sexual exploitation of children has reached record highs. We strive to reveal the realities of what is occurring in communities, in hopes that the real issues remain clear – as revealed in the below statistics captured from an article published by alternet.org:
- Boys make up 50 percent of the sex trafficked victims in the U.S
- Most children who are sex trafficked don’t have a traditional ‘pimp’ but instead recruited by familial procurers or friends known to them who do not manage their work but rather facilitate them by offering shelter or referring them to buyers in exchange for clients or a share of their earnings.
- Many youths show a surprising amount of agency and control over their work don’t believe they need saving and consciously make the decision to work in the sex trade.
- For most exploited children, their trafficking situation is not the greatest trauma they’ve endured – the majority has a history of sexual abuse and neglect.
- Trafficked children are treated as criminals despite federal law classifying anyone under 18 years of age a victim.
- Women make up buyers and traffickers as well.
- Online websites (such as the now defunct backpage.com) can be a sex trafficker’s haven.
- Criminalizing commercial sex work and branding ‘trafficking’ as the same thing raises the stakes for victims.
- Most kids engaged in sex trafficking don’t consider themselves victims and thus do not immediately seek help due to a number of factors such as lack of trust, self-blame and the habitual instructions by the trafficker coaxing the child on how to behave around law enforcement.
- Sex trafficking funds and resources are misappropriated, with much of those funds having been misallocated on advertising and anti-trafficking campaigns rather than spent on actual evidence-based research and rescue operations.