Juvenile Sex Trafficking


“A Six-Year Analysis of Sex Trafficking of Minors: Exploring Characteristics and Sex Trafficking Patterns.” 

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, et al. (April 2017) Arizona State University Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research. Accessed June 27, 2017. 

Introduction from Study: Sex trafficking is a pervasive national problem in the United States. Media reports indicate that sex trafficking occurs in both rural and urban areas with victims who are children and adults, of any gender, race, and sexual orientation. Sex trafficking, defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act. For persons over the age of 18, the TVPA (2000) requires the demonstration that force, fraud, or coercion was used by the sex trafficker(s) to be considered a sex trafficking victim. Persons under the age of 18 (minors) are not required to demonstrate force, fraud, or coercion related to the commercial sex act to be considered a victim of sex trafficking. Due to the covert nature of sex trafficking activities, creating reliable statistics on prevalence, frequency, geography, and particulars of sex trafficking have been difficult to develop (Clawson, Layne, & Small, 2006). Over the past decade, the Federal Bureau of Investigations has reported that they have assisted in the arrest of more than 2,000 human traffickers of both sex and labor trafficking (Human Trafficking/Involuntary Servitude, 2016) but sex trafficker-focused research primarily has relied on small convenience samples with limited ability to compare across time. This study uses a systematic search method to determine the incidence of arrests for sex trafficking of a minor in the United States from 2010 to 2015.


“Rethinking Research on Sexual Exploitation of Boys: Methodical Challenges and Recommendations to Optimize Future Knowledge Generation.”

Mitchell, Katherine, Moynihan Melissa, Pitcher, Claire, et al. Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect. February 2017.

Abstract: Research and policies on child and adolescent sexual exploitation frequently focus on the sexual exploitation of girls and fail to recognize the experiences of sexually exploited boys, including their potentially unique health care and social support needs. This oversight limits the ability of health care and social service providers to offer both targeted and evidence informed care to sexually exploited boys. As a first step in a larger grant to understand the experiences of sexually exploited boys and to develop interventions for this specific population, we conducted a systematic review to address the question, “What is the state of the research on sexually exploited boys internationally?” As we undertook this review, we faced a number of significant challenges that made the process more difficult than anticipated. In this paper, we discuss four key methodological challenges we encountered: lack of a consistent definition of child and adolescent sexual exploitation, difficulties in differentiating sexual exploitation as a specific concept within child sexual abuse, failure to disaggregate data usefully across multiple variables, and limited epidemiological studies to inform prevalence. We reflect on how these challenges limited our ability to systematically analyze, synthesize, and interpret the available research. We conclude by making recommendations to improve the state of the research regarding sexually exploited boys with the aim of better informing future policy and practice.

Youth in Sex Trade Not All Young Girls With Pimps, Study Shows

Barr, Sarah. August 2, 2016.  Accessed August 18, 2016.

Summary: Researchers funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, interviewed nearly 1,000 youth ages 13 to 24 who trade sex for money, housing, food or other goods in six U.S. cities. The researchers found that many of these youth are male or transgender, most do not have pimps, and many feel they have chosen their lives, if from among very limited options. 

Lost in the System: Girls, Foster Care, and the Commercial Sex Trade in LA County. 

Judge Pratt discusses the STAR (Succeeding through Achievement and Resilience) Court in LA County. Video clip.

Summary: 70% of sexually exploited youth in LA are in foster care.

“The Nature and Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego County.” 

Carpenter, A. C. and Gates, J. (2016)  San Diego, CA: University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University. Accessed June 27, 2017 

Executive Summary- Introduction, Background, and Study Objectives: In 2011, San Diego County created the multi-agency San Diego County Regional Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Advisory Council with the objective to reduce human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in San Diego County and the Mexico border region through prevention, prosecution, protection and partnerships. As co-chairs of the Research and Data Sub-Committee of this advisory council, Drs. Carpenter and Gates were asked to pursue a research agenda that would help develop robust measures of the scope of human trafficking in San Diego County. Of particular interest to the County Advisory Council was empirical evidence of the suspected relationship between gangs and human trafficking. The overall purpose of this project was to investigate the nature and assess of the scope of gang involvement in sex trafficking in San Diego County. Human trafficking is a global phenomenon with a variety of local manifestations, including labor and sex trafficking. San Diego is ranked by the FBI as one of the nation’s 13 highest areas of commercial sexual exploitation of children. Despite widespread attention on sex trafficking, there has been little empirical research on the nature and process of sex trafficking activities, and even less on the connection between sex trafficking and gangs. Prior to this study, much of what was known about sex trafficking in San Diego County was anecdotal and descriptive. The study’s basic premise was that empirical investigation would prove useful for both policy and practice. This 3-year study reports on three major sets of findings: (1) the scope and nature of gang involvement in sex trafficking and commercial sexual activity, including detailed analysis of sex trafficking facilitation (2) the scope of nature of victimization in San Diego County, and (3) estimates of the regional commercial sex economy.

Youth Involvement in Sex Trade: A National Study

Swaner, Rachel, Labriola, Melissa, Rempel, Michael, Walker, Allyson, and Spadafore, Joseph. March 2016.

The Center for Criminal Innovation. Accessed September 2, 2016.

Abstract/Summary: The report provides a quantitative, multi-site analysis of findings from nearly 1,000 youth interviews across all six sites; a population estimate; findings from official criminal justice data sources; and findings from interviews with service providers. All reports are available at http://www.courtinnovation.org/youthstudy.

“Sex Trafficking of Girls with Intellectual Disabilities: An Exploratory Mixed Methods Study.”

Reid, Joan A. Sexual Abuse Journal of Research and Treatment. February 2016.

Abstract: Few researchers have examined sex trafficking of girls with intellectual disabilities (IDs). Drawing from 54 juvenile sex trafficking (JST) cases, this exploratory, mixed methods study compared 15 JST cases involving girls with ID with 39 JST cases involving girls without ID. Findings revealed a disproportionate risk for exploitation in JST for girls with ID, endangering circumstances creating vulnerability among this population, as well as the perpetrator–victim dynamics that complicate prevention and intervention. Complicating dynamics included victim lack of awareness of exploitation and its endangerments, inability of victims to self-identify, and the relative ease with which traffickers manipulated these girls. The disproportionate risk faced by girls with ID substantiates the need for enhanced safeguards to prevent sexual exploitation of girls with ID including stiffer penalties for those who exploit and buy sex with youth with disabilities.

“Mapping the Market for Sex with Trafficked Minor Girls in Minneapolis: Structures, Functions, and Patterns.” 

Martin Lauren, et al. (September 2014). University of Minnesota. Accessed June 27, 2017

Introduction from Study: The trafficking of girls under age 18 into the sex trade (also known as domestic minor sex trafficking) has received increased attention from policy makers, law enforcement, service providers, advocates, and funders in Minnesota over the past several years. In July 2011, the Minnesota State Legislature passed Safe Harbor for Youth legislation, which had a sunrise clause for implementation by August 2014. The Minnesota Departments of Health and Public Safety worked with the State Human Trafficking Task Force to develop No Wrong Door, a plan for coordinated and comprehensive services for trafficking victims. Implementation has begun with the hiring of the Safe Harbor/No Wrong Door Director in the Minnesota Department of Health’s Injury and Violence Prevention unit, and the selection of Regional Navigators responsible for ensuring that all victims receive appropriate assistance and trauma-centered services. No Wrong Door is a critical step for early intervention to reduce the harms of domestic minor sex trafficking on Minnesota youth. But, what is the larger system that exploits juveniles through sex trafficking? Who is involved? Where does it happen? And, how does it work? Empirical knowledge of the broader market forces through which youth are exploited is critical to providing a solid basis for Minnesota’s efforts toward intervention and prevention of exploitation of youth in commercial sex and sex trafficking. We conducted this study to answer these questions. The project received funding from the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, internal University of Minnesota funding, and the support of a broad coalition of agencies and individuals. We began with the understanding that the sex trade is an industry, and as such, it operates on market principles. Like other markets, the market for sex with juveniles is structured by demand, supply, and a process through which the supply (or “product”) is developed, managed, and delivered. Sex buyers (the “demand”) enter the market with money and power. Pimps, traffickers, and others that assist them (transporters, watchers, enforcers, etc.) profit by linking sex buyers to juvenile victims (the “product”) for sale. Because of the multiple roles involved in this activity, we refer to these individuals as facilitators. Facilitators recruit a “supply” of juveniles through systematic exploitation of specific needs and vulnerabilities of youth, sometimes described as “push/pull factors.” This study sought to understand the “who, where, and how” aspects of market operations. Who are the people involved in the market (victims, facilitators, and sex buyers)? Where does the market happen? Where are victims recruited? Where do sexual transactions take place? What are the residential locations of facilitators, victims, and sex buyers? “Where” also includes categories of places where sex trafficking activities occur such as hotels, schools, private residences, clubs, etc. Most importantly, we wanted to understand how the market functions. How do the operational structures and mechanisms derive profit from the commercial sexual exploitation of juveniles? Our data collection and analysis produced a great deal of information, which we are continuing to review and analyze. This report provides an overview of our findings and it is a first step in sharing the rich and detailed information we have collected. We expect to produce additional reports and articles. Some of what we learned confirms what we already knew about sex trafficking, particularly Mapping the Market 7 Martin & Pierce characteristics of victims. However, our market framework yielded new insights about the forces behind commercial sexual exploitation of youth and domestic minor sex trafficking. Therefore, much of what we learned and describe in this report is new.

“Child sex trafficking in the United States: Challenges for the healthcare provider.”

Greenbaum VJ (2017) PLoS Med 14(11): e1002439. Accessed March 2018

Abstract/Summary Points: 1) Victims of child sex trafficking are at high risk of numerous physical and behavioral health problems and are likely to seek medical attention. This places healthcare providers (HCPs) in a position to identify high-risk youth and offer critical services; 2) Children are unlikely to disclose their victimization spontaneously to HCPs. To increase the likelihood that providers recognize victims and appropriately respond to their particular needs, training and resources are needed in the following 3 areas: understanding trauma and its impact on children, victim-centered and human rights–based approaches to care, and developmentally appropriate interview techniques; 3) Building trust and establishing the rapport needed to allow a child victim to disclose exploitation typically requires time. This may be difficult to allocate in busy medical settings. Screening tools, division of responsibilities among staff, and prioritization of assessment for trafficking may help to address this problem; 4) Trafficked children have a wide range of physical, mental health, educational, and social needs that are best met by multidisciplinary collaboration of HCPs, victim service providers, government agencies, and other stakeholders. Development of detailed hospital/clinic protocols will assist HCPs in accessing appropriate community and national resources.

“Adolescent Girls Offered Alternatives to Commercial Sexual Exploitation: A Case Study from the Philippines.”

Bagley, Christopher A.; Madrid, Susan; Simkhada, Padam; King, Kathleen; and Young, Loretta (2017) Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence: Vol. 2: Iss. 2, Article 8. 
DOI: 10.23860/dignity.2017.02.01.08. Accessed March 8, 2018.

Abstract: Background: Up to 2% of adolescents and young women are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) in the Philippines, an economically poor country that earns considerable revenue from “sex tourists.” Earlier research, in the 1990s in Metro Manila, described the living conditions of adolescents whose CSE was influenced by family poverty, their so-called “sex work” becoming a major source of income for families left behind in rural and provincial areas of Luzon. Recent research (up to 2014) indicates that conditions for adolescents experiencing CSE have, if anything, worsened.
Methods: Following the original study, the researchers were able to offer scholarships with funds from a Canadian charity, which enabled 84 girls to leave “sex work,” and return to high school.
Results: Follow-up 18 years later showed that being able to return to normal life, was successful for at least 61 (73%) of the young women who researchers were able to trace.


“Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: Practice Implications for Mental Health Professionals.”

Veronica L. Hardy, Kevin D. Compton and Veronica S. McPhatter. Affilia published online 7 February 2013. Accessed March 8, 2018

Abstract: Domestic minor sex trafficking is a complex form of oppression and child maltreatment affecting children and adolescents on both the domestic and transnational levels. In the United States, the statistical account of minors who are affected by commercial sex trafficking varies because of the hidden nature of this criminal activity. Symptoms of trauma can result from such factors as forced subjugation, separation from family, and sexual acts with multiple perpetrators. Treatment relevant to this population is necessary for post-trafficking adaptation to society. In this article, we discuss the possible effects of domestic minor sex trafficking, implications for intervention, and directions for future research.

“Confronting commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States.”

IOM (Institute of Medicine) and NRC (National Research Council). 2013. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Accessed March 8, 2018

Preface and Summary Structure: “It is important to understand that commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors are manifestations of child abuse. By doing so, one can gather valuable insights from the nation’s work on child abuse and neglect over the past several decades and gain a better understanding of the challenges that must be overcome to confront these crimes.” The article features an introduction and addressed: the Nature and Extent of Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States; Risk Factors for and Consequences of Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors; Legal Framework; the Legal System; Victim and Support Services; Health and Health Care; the Education Sector; the Commercial Sector; Multisector and Interagency Collaboration; and, Overall Results and Conclusion.