Child Trafficking & Exploitation: The Facts
Human trafficking generates $32,000,000,000 in profits annually, making it the second largest form of organized crime
1.2 Million children are trafficked every year throughout the world (UNICEF.)
According to ECPAT USA, about 25% of sex tourists abusing children outside the United States are American and Canadian. (Independent Review of Newspaper Articles and Interviews in Asia and Latin America.)
According to a 1999 Human Rights Watch study, ½ of all Russian girls leaving orphan care are sexually exploited within three months of leaving.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates worldwide that there are 246 million exploited children aged between 5 and 17 involved in debt bondage, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, the illegal drug trade, the illegal arms trade and other illicit activities around the world.
According to a University of Pennsylvania study, approximately 100,000 children may be at risk of being commercially sexually exploited in the United States every year
From 2001 to 2009, 212 foreign minors where successfully identified by U.S. authorities as victims of trafficking, thus indicating that thousands more remain unidentified and in slave-like conditions
A trafficker/pimp in the United States can make upwards of $200,000 off the sale of one child victim of sex trafficking in a year. 
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 55 minors were identified as victims of trafficking from April 2006 to December 2010.
An estimated 1.6 million children run away from home every year in the United States. According to the National Runaway Switchboard, the average time it takes before a runaway is approached by a trafficker or solicitor is 48 hours, thus making runaway youth an extremely vulnerable group.
Youth who have experienced prior sexual abuse are at very high risk of being sexually exploited. 70% to 90% of all commercially sexually exploited minors who participated in a 1993 (Murphy) study had experienced prior sexual abuse.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) estimates the average age of entry into commercial sexual exploitation in the United States is 12 to 14 years old.
According to the national trafficking hotline, managed by the Polaris Project, the District of Columbia receives the fifth highest call volume in the nation, with 55% of the 1143 calls from January 2009 to November 2011 being related to sex trafficking. However, nonprofit agencies identify more child victims in commercial sexual exploitation than law enforcement and child welfare agencies do.
In Washington, D.C. (FAIR Girls Headquarters)
In 2011, approximately 125 child victims of sex trafficking were identified by local NGOs like FAIR Girls and law enforcement in the D.C. area
Risk Factors for DC area teens:
More than 50% of DC school children live in single-headed and predominately single-mother households
32% of D.C. children live in poverty, which is twice the national average.
According to Washington Area Women’s Foundation report, Portrait of Women and Girls (2010), there has been an increase in the overall number of reported rapes in the District of Columbia and Fairfax county between 2004 and 2008.
According to the Washington Area Women’s Foundation report, Portrait of Women and Girls, a survey conducted in September 2009 reported that in one day alone, domestic violence programs were forced to turn away almost 600 D.C., Virginia, and Maryland victims due to a lack of capacity to serve clients.
Understanding Exploitation and Child Trafficking
What is child sex trafficking?
Any child under the age of 18 is considered a victim of human trafficking if they are induced to commit a commercial sex act. This can include prostitution or pornography. No child can “consent” or choose to be involved in any form of commercial sex, thus it is never their fault and they should never be arrested or prosecuted for commercial sex acts. There is no such thing as a “juvenile prostitute” or “child prostitute.”
In the United States, 100,000 children are at risk toward commercial sexual exploitation. Globally, estimates indicate that there are 10 million children being exploited in the commercial sex industry. Child sex tourism, child bride selling, and prostitution are the primary forms of child sex trafficking.
What is child labor trafficking?
According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, anyone who if forced, fraud, or coerced into a labor setting is a victim of labor trafficking. Children, like adults, must prove force, fraud, or coercion to obtain victim status. Children working in sweatshops, mines, fishing villages, domestic services, and agricultural are some of the most at-risk for labor trafficking.
Which children are most at risk of human trafficking?
Runaway, neglected, orphaned, abused, and undervalued children are the most at risk toward human trafficking. Children living in conflict communities, natural disaster areas, extreme poverty, or are from highly discriminated groups are most are also at high risk for human trafficking.
Who are child traffickers?
Child traffickers are professional exploiters. They can be family members, gangs, pimps, men or women, and from any race or ethnic background. Those who buy and sell children for sex or forced labor have one goal: profit. Human trafficking, in particular the sexual exploitation of girls, is the second largest form of organized crime in the world next to arms and drugs trafficking.
Who buys child sex?
Anyone who buys sex fuels the human trafficking industry. Every year thousands of men (and women) travel to impoverished countries like Thailand or Moldova to buy child sex. Many foreign and local adults also buy American children. They are called child sex tourists. Here in the United States, American children are also sold and exploited on the streets, in hotels, in apartments, and even in shelters and foster group homes. Anyone who sells a child or an unwilling adult is a trafficker or pimp. Anyone who buys sex from a child or unwilling adult is a rapist or pedophile.
Online Sexual Exploitation
In recent years, the Internet has facilitated a new growth in child sexual exploitation. Online classified advertising agencies, such as Craigslist, Backpage.com, and MyRedBook have facilitated the online sexual exploitation of children via their erotica, adult services, and escort sections of their web sites. Advertisements list children as ‘young’, ‘fresh’, ‘new to town’, and may say that the child is 18 as a means to avoid the police. Children sold for sex online experience on average five rapes a night, making up to 30,000 for their pimps and 3,000 for online classified advertising agencies in one year. The child can suffer extreme depression, lack of educational opportunities, sexual and reproductive health consequences, and extreme physical and sexual abuse as a result of the trauma.
Common Myths and Misconceptions About the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
Misconception: Girls keep the money they make from commercial sex.
Truth: Most often, pimps control and take almost every penny a girl earns while engaged in commercial sexual exploitation. According to FAIR Girls clients, any attempts to hide money result in beatings, abuse, withholding of food and water, or worse.
Misconception: Teens choose to get involved in prostitution.
Truth: Young people, boys and girls, are manipulated, forced, and coerced into prostitution everyday. Pimps hangout where young people congregate: malls, movie theaters, restaurants, parks, schools, bus stations, etc. They befriend them and then lure them into prostitution. Moreover, anyone under the age of 18 who is involved in commercial sex is considered a victim of human trafficking, not a prostitute.
Misconception: A pimp is someone a girl or boy has never met and just grabs them off the streets.
More than often than not, a trafficker is someone that the victim once felt close to. Older men will often target lonely or unsuspecting young people and will convince them that they love them. Often, the pimp will then ask his victim, who thinks he cares for them, to have sex with others just a “few time” or to “help them start a life together.” This soon changes, as they exploited and forced to have sex with many more men. They are trapped, alone, and scared.
Misconception: Trafficking must involve some form of travel or movement across state or national borders.
Truth: The legal definition of trafficking, as defined under the federal trafficking statutes, does not require transportation, although transportation may be involved in the crime. Although the world connotes movement, human trafficking is not synonymous with forced migration or smuggling. Instead, human trafficking is more accurately characterized as “compelled service” where an individual's will is overborne through force, fraud, or coercion. Transportation or migration is less of a relevant consideration to the definition or for identifying trafficked persons.
Misconception: If the trafficked person consented to be in their initial situation or was informed about what type of labor they would be doing or that commercial sex would be involved, then it cannot be trafficking or against their will because they “knew better.”
Truth: No one can consent to be in a situation of human trafficking. Initial consent to commercial sex or a labor setting prior to acts of force, fraud, or coercion (or if the victim is a minor in a sex trafficking situation) is not relevant to the crime, nor is payment.
Common Red Flags of Commercial Sexual Exploitation
- Frequent absences
- Sudden wearing of clothes/jewelry that are clearly more expensive than previously worn or not weather appropriate
- The sudden presence of an older “boyfriend” or “friend”
- Fearful, anxious, submissive behavior, tension or nervousness
- Interest in older men
- Evidence of controlling relationship
- Not in control of their own money
- Secrecy of whereabouts; unaccounted for time
- Tattoo that he/she is reluctant to explain
- Contradicting personal information
- Unexplained number of burner cell phones
- Friends who are much older men on Facebook
- Sudden lack of interest in former friends
- Excessive condoms and baby wipes in purse
Common Red Flags of Child Labor Trafficking
- Where is the child working? Is this a normal place where children work?
- What are the required work hours each day? Children should not be working late or excessive hours.
- Is the child being paid what they were promised?
- What kind of work is the child preforming? Is this hazardous work?
- Should the child be in school rather than working?
If you suspect a child is being trafficked:
If you suspect a child is in a trafficking situation, it is very important that you report your concerns to the most appropriate authorities.
- Contact the human trafficking hotline. 1-888-3737-888.
- If you are a mandated reporter, you must contact your local child welfare agency.
- if you believe the child is in life threatening danger, you should contact 911 and clearly explain your concerns that this child is a victim of human trafficking.
- Feel free to contact FAIR Girls for a referral or to discuss your concerns. We are here for support. Please contact us at 202-265-1505. Email us at email@example.com.
 Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S. and Mexico, University of Pennsylvania (February 2002 revision). Richard Estes and Neil Weiner
 United States Department of Justice, Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of the U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Fiscal Year 2009 (July 2010), 19.
 Statistical data provided by the National Resource Center of the Polaris Project