Youth Sex Trafficking

Traffickers are using the Internet as a way to target unsuspecting and vulnerable youth for their own personal financial gain as targets are seen as none other than a dollar sign.  Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States and globally. According to the F.B.I., sex trafficking is the 2nd fastest growing criminal industry -- just behind drug trafficking. It is an easy, low risk (many traffickers still believe the high profit margin to be worth the risk of detection), and profitable industry because of huge consumer demand.

Much like the grooming tactics employed by sexual predators, sex traffickers lure their target into an online relationship, with the ultimate goal of meeting in person.  Traffickers use a deliberate process to identify and recruit their victims. It happens in three main phases: Scouting, manipulating and trapping.  Victims are often showered with love, romance and promises of a better life. Others are lured in with false promises of a job, or given expensive gifts. The end game of the trafficker (or pimp) however, is to force or manipulate their target into prostitution.

Left unchecked, human trafficking will continue to flourish in environments where traffickers can reap substantial monetary gains with relatively low risk of getting caught or losing profits. Despite growing awareness about this crime, it continues to go underreported due to its covert nature, misconceptions about its definition, and a lack of awareness about its indicators.

What is Teen Sex Trafficking?

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

What Does a Trafficker "Look Like?"

  • A trafficker can be anyone -- a classmate, employer, family friend, acquaintance, a boyfriend/girlfriend, or someone you met online. 
  • Traffickers often pretend to be someone they are not by setting up fake accounts online to "friend" a teen, and then groom them using a variety of techniques to gain their trust.

Who Do Traffickers Target?

  • Teens (both boys and girls) between the ages of 12-19 are victims, but some have been as young as 9.
  • Teens from all different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are targets
  • Traffickers often seek out children online who appear vulnerable, depressed, seem emotionally isolated from family and friends, have low-esteem or appear to have a lot of unsupervised time.
  • Runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war or conflict, or social discrimination are frequently targeted by traffickers.

Pornography and Sex Trafficking – Are they Related?

  • Some types of pornography actually are sex trafficking, specifically as the production of pornography often involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to prompt the performance of those shown in the pornography. (Note: It is not necessary to demonstrate force, fraud, or coercion in sex trafficking cases involving children under the age of 18.)
  • Traffickers often exploit their victims by recording the acts they perform. These videos are often used as training.

How Can I Protect My Teen?

  • Look for at-risk warning signs (staying out later than usual, change in friends, withdrawing from activities, spending time with suspicous individuals, unexplained possessions/access to money)
  • Implement the guidelines contained in Enough Is Enough®'s "Rules 'N Tools" to protect Internet-enabled devices. 
  • Click Here to see additional sex trafficking resources.
  • To report a tip or get help, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.