“Commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors not only are illegal activities, but also result in immediate and long-term physical, mental, and emotional harm to victims and survivors.”
Commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States are frequently overlooked, misunderstood, and unaddressed domestic problems. In the past decade, they have received increasing attention from advocates, the media, academics, and policy makers. However, much of this attention has focused internationally. This international focus has overshadowed the reality that commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors also occur every day within the United States.
Commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors not only are illegal activities, but also result in immediate and long-term physical, mental, and emotional harm to victims and survivors. A nation that is unaware of these problems or disengaged from solving them unwittingly contributes to the ongoing abuse of minors and all but ensures that these crimes will remain marginalized and misunderstood.
In September 2013, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies published the report Confronting
Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States. The purpose of that report is to:
• increase awareness and understanding of the crucial problem of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States;
• examine emerging strategies for preventing and identifying these crimes, for assisting and supporting victims and survivors, and for addressing exploiters and traffickers; and
• offer a path forward through recommendations designed to increase awareness and understanding and to support efforts to prevent, identify, and respond to these crimes.
The IOM/NRC report includes chapters on specific sectors with a role to play in addressing the problem. Because the report is lengthy and broad in its reach, the IOM/NRC, with the support of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, decided to develop a series of guides offering a more concise and focused perspective on the problem and emerging solutions for several of these sectors.
The intended audience for this guide is providers1 of victim and support services for children and adolescents who have experienced or are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. These service providers include individuals (policy makers, leaders, practitioners), organizations, and programs at the local, state, and federal levels. They encompass child welfare and child protective services, other agencies and programs within the state and federal governments (e.g., the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime), and nongovernmental organizations.
Following this introduction, Section 2 provides definitions of relevant terms, a set of guiding principles, a summary of what is known about the extent of the problem, and an overview of risk factors and consequences.
Section 3 describes some emerging strategies for preventing and responding to these crimes. It describes both strategies specific to the victim
1Note that throughout this guide, the term “provider” is intended to encompass all of the entities—from individuals to organizations—that make up the victim and support services sector.
and support services sector and multisector, collaborative strategies in which providers of victim and support services play a role.
Section 4 reviews approaches to providing services for victims and survivors of these crimes, including trauma-informed care, case management, and survivor-led and survivor-informed models. It also describes several key challenges to service provision.
Finally, Section 5 presents strategies for making progress in identifying, preventing, and responding to these crimes, based on the recommendations offered in the IOM/NRC report.
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