Surprising Facts about Child Sex Trafficking

  • Boys make up 50 percent of the sex trafficked victims in the U.S. Studies show that boys are as equally affected by sex trafficking as girls and along with transgendered youth are considered a high-risk, hidden population.
  • Most children who are sex trafficked don’t have a traditional ‘pimp’. Most children are not ‘pimped’ in the traditional sense 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 youth show a surprising amount of agency and control over their work. Many youth who engage in commercial sex do not view themselves as sufferers, but rather perceive their ‘work’ as a curious and fascinating lifestyle.
  • 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. Between 70–90 percent of commercially sexually exploited children in the United States have been sexually abused prior to entering ‘the life’ and are runaways with a history of complex trauma that usually begins with a dysfunctional or neglectful family.
  • Trafficked children are treated as criminals despite federal law classifying anyone under 18 years of age a victim. Despite statutory rape laws in every state explicitly stating that children under 18 cannot legally consent to having sex, (in conformity with the federal Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000) most states still allow minors to be arrested and charged with prostitution crimes.
  • Women make up buyers and traffickers as well. 40 percent of boys and 11 percent of the girls surveyed said that they had served a female client, with 13 percent of the boys exclusively serving female clients.
  • Online websites such as backpage.com can be a sex trafficker’s haven. Tina Frundt, who works alongside FBI investigators in locating online predators, says such websites are a feeding ground for traffickers:  “The traffickers are online all over backpage and it’s like kiddy porn but most providers are unfamiliar with the lingo and code words used by pimps and buyers so we’re missing it,” she said.
  • Criminalizing commercial sex work and branding ‘trafficking’ as the same thing raises the stakes for victims. In the United States, any person under the age of 18 whether a girl or boy with any assistance from a third party, is by definition a ‘trafficked victim’, whether they consent or initiate contact on their own accord.
  • Most kids engaged in sex trafficking don’t consider themselves victims. Children who are sex trafficked generally do not self-identify as victims of a crime 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.  In addition, traffickers chronically condition the child to believe that he/she is engaging in sex work out of true love to pay off a debt – “you would do this if you loved me”. Moreover, many children who enter ‘the life’ at an early age are brainwashed by their trafficker to believe that this is the only ‘job’ they are cut out to do.
  • Sex trafficking funds and resources are misappropriated. While the United States has spent almost $1.2 billion fighting sex trafficking globally, much of those funds have been misallocated on advertising and anti-trafficking campaigns rather than spent on actual evidence-based research and rescue operations.

Learn more at Jodie Gummow’s San Diego Free Press article: What Mainstream Media isn’t Telling You About the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the US.

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