I recently attended a training on Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) and Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST), and I wanted to give some quick tips to increase awareness.
What is the difference between Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) and Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST)?
By law, a person cannot consent to prostitution un
til the age of 18. This does not mean that people over the age of 18 are consenting to prostitution, in fact, sexual exploitation and trafficking does occur at alarming rates for those over the age of 18. Commercially sexually exploited children are boys and girls under the age of 18 that are transported internationally for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Domestic minor sex trafficking are boys and girls under the age of 18 that are moved within the country for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The most current research indicates over 300,000 children are domestically sex trafficked within the United States each year. In addition, majority of sex exchanged is between 6-8am and 11-1pm during the day. Very alarming as the usually idea of sex trade is visualized to occur during the night.
What are some of the risk factors?
History of previous sexual abuse
Violation of boundaries by some sort of trauma such as bullying, physical abuse or emotional abuse
Feelings of guilt and shame
Low self-esteem or self-doubt
Self-perception as a sexual object, or some level of skewed self-image
Running away or being homeless, or some other level of isolation from support
Low socio-economic status
Level of vulnerability
Pressure to conform to mainstream culture
Unmet emotional, physical and mental needs
What are the pathways to entry?
There is a stigma around people who are involved within the sex industry, such as this work being a choice. I want to debunk this myth by explaining the recruitment basics.
Anybody is susceptible to being lured by a recruiter, trafficker or pimp, but they do prey on children 12-14 on average due to the lack of cognitive and emotional development. These perpetrators are manipulative, cunning and deceiving. There are generally two types of perpetrators: guerrilla pimps and romeo primps. Guerrilla pimps use force to apprehend a victim whereas a romeo pimp shows love and care to gain trust and alliance. They prey on the weakness and power differential of their victims to create a dependency and level of fear. Time and energy is put into methodologically coercing and breaking them down psychologically, which is oblivious to the victim. These victims are groomed overtime until they meet the needs of their perpetrator.
When the average person thinks about exploitation, we think about a white or black unmarked van driving up and scooping a child into the car. A lot has changed. A child can be exploited by a peer at school, a stranger they meet online, a romantic partner, or even by their own family within the comforts of their home. An exploiter is looking and seeking a way to false promise, lie, control or threat based on the vulnerability and unmet need of the victim. By seemingly meeting this need, false trust and alliance starts being created, making them susceptible for victimization.
How can I identify a victim?
Extreme changes in behavior, especially related to school, emotional regulation and social life, or presence of delinquent or oppositional behavior
Inappropriate ways to express affection
Contact with people that are stranger or unfamiliar
Significantly older boyfriend or girlfriend
Excessive phone calls, texts or activity on social media
Having unaffordable new items
Increased level of fear, hypervigiliance or worrying
Physical marks and bruising
Inconsistencies in communication
Increased secrecy, isolation or withdrawal
Presence of sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal or rectal bleeding, etc
If you suspect, please look into the signs by increasing supervision and seeking support from the school counselor, local law enforcement, or other community leader or mental health provider. You can also make a report to your state Department of Family and Children Services or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (888) 373-7888.
How can I protect myself?
Being educated about maintaining your safety is key. As noted before, anyone can become a victim. Be aware of your surroundings, listen to your intuition, and maintain your community supports. Do not place yourself in a situation that you feel trapped, and be aware of the signs of power differential (i.e., control, jealousy, pressure to be sexual, pressure to them happy even if you are not comfortable, disregard for personal boundaries, engagement in illegal activities, empty or grand promises, or even sudden changes in behavior). We cannot control someone else, or when they take away our choice, BUT we can control some decisions we make leading up to that point. Make conscious decisions about those you come across, and encourage your loved ones to do the same.
National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Phone: 1 (888) 373-7888
SMS: 233733 (Text "HELP" or "INFO")
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week