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What is Child Sex Trafficking

  • Child sex trafficking is a form of child abuse.​

  • Federal law defines child sex trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person under 18 years of age for the purpose of a commercial sex act. A commercial sex act is a sexual act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.

  • In this situation, the minor is sexually exploited for something of value. Children who are trafficked for sex are induced to engage in sex in exchange for money or goods and services, either for themselves or for the profit of someone else, such as a trafficker.

Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States and globally.Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to force women, men and children to engage in commercial sex against their will. Under federal law, any minor under the age of 18 years induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking—regardless of whether or not the trafficker used force, fraud, or coercion.

Sex traffickers may lure their victims with the false promise of a high-paying job. Others promise a romantic relationship, where they first establish an initial period of false love and feigned affection. During this period they offer gifts, compliments, and sexual and physical intimacy, while making elaborate promises of a better life, fast money, and future luxuries. However, the trafficker eventually employs a variety of control tactics, including physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, confiscation of identification and money, isolation from friends and family, and even renaming victims.

U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, women, men, children, and LGBTQ individuals can be victims of sex trafficking. Runaway and homeless youth, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war or conflict, or social discrimination are frequently targeted by traffickers. Sex trafficking exists within diverse venues including fake massage businesses, online escort services, residential brothels, in public on city streets and in truck stops, strip clubs, hotels and motels, and elsewhere.

In street-based sex trafficking, victims are often expected to earn a nightly quota, ranging from $500 to $1000 or more, which is confiscated by the pimp. Women in brothels disguised as massage businesses typically live on-site where they are coerced into providing commercial sex to 6 to 10 men a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more about sex trafficking, including specific details of the venues where sex trafficking frequently occurs, at

Venues for Child Sex Trafficking


  • Street Prostitution

  • Commercial-Front Brothels

  • Truck Stops

  • Hotels & Motels

  • Private Residence

  • Internet & Webcam

  • Pornography & Strip Clubs

  • Escort Services

Networking Characteristics


  • Pimp-Controlled Trafficking: “Many of those who engage in street prostitution, escort services, or prostitution affiliated with sexually-oriented businesses may actually be under the control of traffickers that refer to themselves as pimps. A pimp may be a stranger who recruits a runaway off the street, or an intimate partner or family member.

  • Trafficking In Residential Brothels: Another form of sex trafficking that victimizes youth occurs in residential brothels. Residential brothels are typically informal, cash-based, underground businesses that operate inside homes or apartments, and are frequently advertised by word of mouth and business cards called ‘tarjetas.’

  • Familial Trafficking: This next form of trafficking involves an intimate partner or family member serving in the role of a trafficker. These traffickers might force or induce young family members or intimate partners to work or engage in commercial sex to make money for the family or relationship, or as a way to support the trafficker’s addiction.

  • Gang-Involved Trafficking: Females affiliated with gangs are often not allowed to be members. Rather, gang members often treat them as property and use them for profit. Gangs often recruit youth through social media and schools while using techniques such as boyfriending and promises of love and support. Gang members also resort to threats of violence and physical harm to coerce compliance from their victims.

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