a range of crimes of a sexual nature committed against children and adolescents, including
• recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, and/or maintaining (acts that constitute trafficking) a minor for the purpose of sexual exploitation;
• exploiting a minor through prostitution;
• exploiting a minor through survival sex (exchanging sex/sexual acts for money or something of value [e.g., shelter, food, drugs]);
• using a minor in pornography;
• exploiting a minor through sex tourism, mail order bride trade, and early marriage; and
• exploiting a minor by having her or him perform in sexual venues (e.g., peep shows or strip clubs).
This report focuses primarily on trafficking for purposes of prostitution, exploitation of a minor through prostitution, and survival sex.
Numerous factors—at the individual, community, and systems levels—contribute to a lack of understanding and awareness of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. For example, these crimes may be overlooked and underreported because they frequently occur at the margins of society and behind closed doors. Victims often are vulnerable to exploitation. They include children and adolescents who are, or have been, neglected or abused; in foster care or juvenile detention; or homeless, runaways, or so-called thrown-away children (i.e., children and adolescents that are asked or forced to leave home). In addition, the absence of specific policies or protocols related to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors, coupled with a lack of specialized training, makes it difficult for professionals from a range of sectors to identify and assist victims and survivors of these crimes.
Further, victims and survivors may be distrustful of law enforcement, may not view themselves as “victims,” or may be too traumatized to report or disclose the crimes committed against them. Most states continue to arrest commercially exploited children and adolescents as criminals instead of treating them as victims, and health care providers and educators have not widely adopted screening for commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors. Finally, a lack of awareness among individuals who routinely interact with victims and survivors ensures that these crimes are not identified and properly addressed. As a result, there is no reliable estimate of the incidence or prevalence of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States, and many victims go without help.
Although a modest amount of research and noteworthy practices and