programs have emerged, far more needs to be known before it will be possible to adequately understand and respond to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. This report is designed to provide a more complete picture of the problems by connecting the dots between more established fields of research and practice and the emerging body of work on commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. This report also aims to provide the scientific underpinnings for future practice, policy, and research efforts and help raise awareness and encourage action on problems of national importance with serious health and safety implications. The report identifies opportunities—through the expansion and enhancement of current efforts and the introduction of new strategies—to advance understanding of and improve the nation’s response to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors.
In fall 2011, with support from the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council formed the Committee on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States to conduct a study of these problems as they affect U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States under age 18. Based on its review of the evidence, the committee was asked to make recommendations encompassing strategies for responding to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States, new legislative approaches, and a research agenda (see Box S-1).
GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND OVERALL CONCLUSIONS
To guide its deliberations, the committee began with three fundamental principles:
1. Commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors should be understood as acts of abuse and violence against children and adolescents.
2. Minors who are commercially sexually exploited or trafficked for sexual purposes should not be considered criminals.
3. Identification of victims and survivors and any intervention, above all, should do no further harm to any child or adolescent.
These principles are woven throughout the text of this report and are fundamental to the committee’s recommendations.