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 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.
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.
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
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.