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There are over 1 million children worldwide who are unfortunate victims of sex trafficking. These victims are known as Commercial Sexual Exploited Children (CSEC). The term Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) is also commonly used, although primarily referring to children within the United States. 

CSEC are children who are forced or coerced into the sex industry. Regardless if the child consented, children cannot provide consent to be exploited. Children are victims regardless of how consent was obtained. 


  • Victims may come from all economic backgrounds, although families with low financial status are most vulnerable ​(1)

  • Families struggling with poverty and unemployment (2)

  • Families with a lack of support systems (2)

  • Children that come from complicated family dynamics and dysfunction (I.e., neglect, family violence/abuse, CPS involvement, etc.) (2,3)

  • Children in the foster care system (2)

  • Children who run away from home (5)

  • Children with a history of abuse specifically sexual and physical (6,4,7

  • Children experiencing parental substance abuse (3, 8, 9)

  • Exposure to prostitution (4) 

  • Females residing in cities with high crime (4)

When any of these characteristics are combined, vulnerability increases. 



Traffickers are innovative when it comes to recruitment. They will recruit from the inside of your home as a trustworthy individual to a stranger in the streets. They are skilled in their recruitment process. Research has shown these are some of the common ways traffickers are recruiting their victims. 

  • Traffickers create a trauma bond with their victims. A trauma bond is a toxic relationship or connection the victim creates with an abuser. This is a complex process traffickers use, typically including threatening and isolation. This bond ensures continued victimization, making it hard for individuals to leave. It is most commonly used with adolescents. (11, 12, 13)

  • Recruitment through female traffickers has gained popularity as children view females as less intimidating. Female recruiters may use their friendly and personable demeanor to their advantage. (14, 15)

  • Traffickers target children who are struggling with financial stability with monetary gifts and financial support. (12)

  • Traffickers will engage in manipulation tactics with families to build trust and gain access. Families might perceive this person as likable and trustworthy. (12)

  • Traffickers are adapting and becoming more technologically savvy. They may pretend to be other children using social media apps and video games. (16)

  • Traffickers continue to use blackmail, loyalty, and pregnancy. (13)

  • Kidnapping and abduction is also still used as a form of recruitment. (13)


Exploitation of Victims

Exploitive activities vary due to the location and demand. (17) These activities include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Prostitution 

  • Child Pornography 

  • Sex Tourism

    • Traveling to foreign countries to engage in sexual activities.  

  • Survival Sex 

    • ​The exchange of sex to get needs met​​ such as money, food, and shelter. 


Types of Traffickers/Pimps

Gorilla Pimp: This type of trafficker uses force and violence to recruit their victims. (10)


Finesse/ Romeo Pimp: This type of trafficker may be perceived as charming. They will give their victim false love and attention to recruit. (10) 

Business/ CEO Pimp: Type of trafficker that deceives victims and families by promising jobs and careers. (10)


Protective factors to help mitigate childhood sexual exploitation: (18)

  • Positive and supportive relationships with others (ie., peers, parents, teachers, etc.) 

  • Academic achievement and school completion

  • Parental education 

  • Involvement in extracurricular activities

  • Learning about self-esteem and having boundaries 

  • Security of basic needs​

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