Sex Trafficking: The Facts

Caution:  Mature content.  Not appropriate for children.

Sexual exploitation harms millions of women and children around the world each year. International sex trafficking occurs across national borders, requiring global cooperation to investigate, prosecute and convict sex traffickers and rescue traffic victims. The international nature of sex trafficking makes it extremely difficult to know how many people are actually being trafficked.

While the dark world of international sex trafficking is becoming more well known, many people remain unaware that sex trafficking isn't just an international problem.  It happens in your neighborhoods, communities, at local truck stops – often masquerading as prostitution. 

Domestic minor sex trafficking – the commercial sexual exploitation of children of under the age of 18 in the United States – is a growing problem. In order to be equipped to help fight the crime of domestic minor sex trafficking, we need to understand what it is. 

The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the federal law that deals with human trafficking for minors and adults, defines the crime of human trafficking as: [1]

  • "The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age, or
  •  The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery."

In order to separate trafficking from sexual assault, molestation or rape, the commercial aspect must be taken into consideration. The term "commercial sex act" is defined by the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act as the giving or receiving of anything of value (money, drugs, shelter, food, clothes, etc.) to any person in exchange for a sex act.[2]

The age of the victim is a critical issue when it comes to identifying and prosecuting minor sex trafficking. In this case, there is no requirement to prove force, fraud or coercion was used to secure the victim's actions. The law recognizes the effect of psychological manipulation by the trafficker, as well as the effect of threat of harm which traffickers/pimps use to maintain control over their young victims.[3]