Child Sex Trafficking
Child Sex Trafficking

Report Child Sex Trafficking to the CyberTipline!

Overview

Child sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, or advertising of a minor child for the purpose of a commercial sex act, which involves the exchange of anything of value – such as money, drugs or a place to stay – for sexual activity.  

While any child can be targeted by a trafficker, research has shown that traffickers often target children with increased vulnerabilities and prey upon a child’s vulnerability and use psychological pressure and intimidation to control, and sexually exploit, the child for financial benefit.  However, the issue of child sex trafficking is complex and not all instances of child sex trafficking involve an identified trafficker.  In such cases, it is the person buying sex from the child who exploits the child’s vulnerabilities. Traffickers and buyers of children for sex encompass all racial, socio-economic and cultural groups. Child sex trafficking has devastating consequences for its minor victims, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease, and/or even death.

Risk Factors 

While any child can be targeted by a trafficker, research has shown that traffickers often target children with increased vulnerabilities, including: 

  • Children who are chronically missing or who frequently run away (especially 3+ missing incidents)
  • Children who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, especially if the abuse was unreported or unaddressed, or resulted in the child being removed from the home
  • Children who have experienced prior sexual assault or rape  
  • Children with significant substance abuse issues or who live with someone who has significant substance abuse issues
  • Children who identify as LGBTQ and have been kicked out or who have been stigmatized by their family.

Red Flags

While no single indicator confirms the existence of child sex trafficking, several indicators combined can mean it is more likely that a child is being exploited or is actively being targeted and recruited.  That is why being aware of the following indicators is so important:

Behavioral Indicators

  • Child has a significant change in behavior, including increased virtual behavior, or associates with a new group of friends
  • Child avoids answering questions or lets others speak for him or her
  • Child appears frightened, resistant, or belligerent to law enforcement 
  • Child lies about his or her age and identity
  • Child looks to others before answering questions
  • Child does not ask for help or resists offers to get out of the situation (child does not self-identify as a victim)
  • Child seems coached in talking to law enforcement
  • Child uses trafficking-related terms like “Trick,” “The Life,” or “The Game”
  • Child is preoccupied with “getting money” (e.g., displaying photos of cash)

Physical Indicators

  • Child has multiple cell phones and/or electronic devices
  • Child has large amounts of cash or pre-paid credit cards
  • Child has no ID, or ID is held by another person 
  • Multiple children are present with an unrelated male or female
  • Child has unusual/unexplained sexual paraphernalia (such as bulk condoms or lubrication) (More +)
  • There is evidence the child has been or will be traveling (child is living out of suitcases, at motels, or in a car)
  • Child has a name or symbol tattooed, burned, or branded onto his or her body, particularly when coupled with the child’s reluctance to explain the tattoo, the child’s tattoo matches other children’s tattoos, the tattoo indicates money or ownership (ex. MOB, barcode or $)
  • Child references traveling to other cities or states or is not from the current location; the child may also lack knowledge of his or her travel plans, destinations, and/or his or her current location.
  • Child has hotel keys, hotel receipts, or other items from a hotel/motel
  • Presence of an overly controlling or abusive “boyfriend” or older female
  • Child is recovered at a hotel, street track, truck stop, or strip club
  • Child has notebooks or slips of paper containing phone numbers, dollar amounts, names, or addresses
  • Child has items or an appearance that does not fit his or her current situation (e.g., a homeless or runaway child who has money, electronics, new clothes or shoes, and who has his or her hair and nails done)
  • Child references online classified ads or escort websites
  • Child references traveling job opportunities (including modeling, singing and/or dancing in a music group, or magazine sales crew)
  • Child has unaddressed medical issues or who goes to the ER or clinic alone, or with an unrelated adult.

By the Numbers

In 2017, of the 27,000 cases reported to NCMEC, 91% were endangered runaways.
51% of endangered runaways reported to NCMEC were between 16-17 years old.
22% of all Endangered Runaway children who were intaked by NCMEC in 2016 had multiple missing incidents in the same year.

What NCMEC is Doing About it

Providing a Specialized Response

NCMEC provides specialized technical assistance, analysis and recovery services on cases involving child sex trafficking, including:

  • reviewing CyberTipline reports related to child sex trafficking;
  • assisting on cases of missing children involved in, or at risk of, trafficking;
  • providing technical assistance and training to help with the identification, location and provision of recovery planning and services to victims of child sex trafficking 
  • supporting the recovery of victims by making referrals for post-recovery resources and services for child sex trafficking victims and their families
  • providing peer-to-peer support for families of child sex trafficking victims

Training Professionals on How to Identify and Respond to Child Sex Trafficking

NCMEC provides specialized child sex trafficking training for law enforcement and educators to help identify and respond to child sex trafficking that can be provided online or in-person. To learn more about our training options and to apply visit NCMEC University, click here.

Providing Compassion and Care to Survivors

Often, when child victims of sex trafficking are recovered, they have only the clothes on their backs. NCMEC provides “Hope Bags” to survivors, filled with basic necessities, such as toiletries, a change of clothes and shoes, and snacks, to help ensure they have all they need in the hours and days after they are recovered. Donate a Hope Bag here.

Helping Survivors Rebuild Their Lives with Hope Bags

Your donation provides survivors with a Hope Bag and other valuable resources to rebuild their lives. Your support will contribute towards our mission to help bring an end to child sexual exploitation and find the missing.

$10 provides all new toiletries
$15 provides snacks, a journal, and a food gift card
$25 provides a fresh change of clothes and shoes
$55 provides a complete Hope Bag

Building Awareness about the Issue