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How serious is the child sex trafficking issue?

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Commercial Sexual Exploitation of children (CSE) and Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DST) are recognized as “a grave threat to a precious resource” and the fastest growing underworld crime. President Obama has declared the matter to be a priority across all federal government agencies along with Attorneys General offices and state legislatures across the nation. Over a dozen federal agencies are involved in ddressing the matter from different angles: victim services, identification and prosecution of perpetrators, assistance to law enforcement and court units.

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The most quoted statistics indicate that nearly 300,000 US children are being sexually violated for commercial gain every single day. The actual numbers could be much higher when these factors are considered:

  • The National Runaway Hotline estimates that up to 1.6-2.8 million youth run away from
    home each year.
  • Escaping abuse is the number one reason given by 40% of the girls and
    30% of the boys who run away from home7
  • Within 48 hours, 33% of these minors are victimized through sexual exploitation and/or
    child sex trafficking8
  • Of girls living on the streets, 55% are involved in formal prostitution
  • Using these numbers, 533,000 and up to nearly one million children are being
    commercially exploited for sex at any given time. This doesn’t account for “survival
    sex” in which runaways trade sex as the currency for food, shelter or protection.
  • A 2013 report from the Institute of Medicine shows aggregated information from
    numerous studies with some estimates of CSE victims numbering up to 2.4 million10

All children are at risk for sexual exploitation, but there are definable conditions which make some exceptionally vulnerable:

  • Lack of positive, meaningful relationships with key family members or other significant adults
  • Dysfunctional home life including domestic violence, emotional abuse, substance abuse, absentee or neglectful parents
  • Prior victimization through sexual, physical or emotional abuse

These scenarios engender low self-esteem in the children and a great need to find someone who seems to care and treat them in special ways. Predators understand these dynamics well and often play the part of boyfriend, mentor or “daddy” until the child responds with trust or “being in love”. Then, the tables are turned and the young person is told she needs to bring in money for “their future”. Once at this point, threats, beatings and manipulation from the pimp keep the victims from refusing or trying to escape.

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