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What is sex trafficking?

Understanding what sex trafficking is, is the first step in protecting our freedom.

Sex trafficking is relentlessly targeting and exploiting today’s generation of young people. There is no longer a stereotype to the kind of person to be trafficked, so it is necessary for everyone to be aware of this heinous crime.

The Definition

The most commonly used definition for “sex trafficking” is from the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). This is pretty cool because it sets up a framework to make sure trafficked victims are protected by the federal government. This is how the TVPA defines sex trafficking:

The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of commercial sex acts in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.

There are a lot of big words in there. So what does this really mean? Here is a simple way to understand it:

When someone younger than 18 years old is engaging in any form of commercial sex for any reason, they are a victim of sex trafficking. OR if an adult is engaging in commercial sex because he/she was physically forced, manipulated, or threatened.

The difference between adults and minors is important. The United States’ law claims that anyone under the age of 18 cannot consent. We usually see this applied to sexual encounters between a minor and adult. It is considered statutory rape because the law sees the minor as unable to consent to sex, and therefore a victim of sexual abuse by the adult. Minors also cannot consent to a contract. Commercial sex includes both sexual encounters and a contract. This means that legally, a minor is always considered a sex trafficking victim if engaging in any form of commercial sex. Force, fraud, or coercion does not need to be proved for the minor to be a victim. This is beneficial because the legal system immediately seeks out programs and resources to help these young people overcome the trauma they have experienced.

An adult, however, is legally capable of consenting to contracts and sexual encounters. This means that unless it can be proven in court that the adult engaged in commercial sex because of force, fraud, or coercion, that adult is not viewed as a victim. Unfortunately many victims are not recognized because most victims struggle to self-identify, and much of the legal system still does not understand sex trafficking.

But what is commercial sex?

Commercial sex: any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.

This includes but is not limited to: prostitution, pornography, stripping, and survival sex. “Anything of value” is the key here. Money is not the only valuable thing that can be exchanged for sexual services. Shelter, food, clothing, drugs, or a service are a couple examples of things that might be used as payment.

Considering all the different components that makes up sex trafficking, what is the most simple definition we can come up with to summarize?

Rape for profit.

Stats that Shatter Stereotypes

The average age of entry for a young person entering sex trafficking in the United States is 13 years old. This means that 9 year olds, as well as 17 year olds, are being forced into sex trafficking for the first time. Not only that, but around 20% of them are boys. Sex trafficking does not discriminate against age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Anyone can be targeted because everyone has vulnerabilities that traffickers can take advantage of.

Movies and media that address sex trafficking oftentimes paint a picture of exploitation happening overseas. The stories are heart wrenching and overwhelming, and we get the impression that it all starts “over there.” Researchers have begun to estimate that 80% of youth (boys and girls) trafficked in the United States are actually U.S. citizens. Despite the thousands of cases we have of foreign victims being brought to the states to be sold, we are finding that the majority of youth sex trafficked domestically are from our own neighborhoods. There are plenty of potential victims locally; a trafficker does not need to go overseas for victims. A friend, brother, sister, cousin, daughter, niece, nephew, son. It can happen to anyone.

What You Can Do

When we understand that sex trafficking can happen to anyone, we know what the warning signs are and the importance of spreading awareness, we can make a difference. Check out more facts about sex trafficking, download our fact sheet, and start telling friends and family. This generation can prevent more people from falling trap to exploitation. Join us in fighting for freedom!

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