U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children/Sex Trafficking

NCJ Number
Date Published
16 pages
Following an overview of the prevalence pf the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) internationally and in the United States, this paper discusses U.S. anti-trafficking legislation, characteristics of CSEC and sex-trafficked children, the theoretical foundation, pathways to CSEC, and outcome evidence for the effectiveness of CSEC prevention and intervention programs.
One count of prevalence estimates of CSEC in the United States is approximately 200,000 children annually (Bryan 2024; The Polaris Project). The Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) has been reauthorized four times. The most recent reauthorization was part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013; it includes a focus on sex trafficking of minors. The enforcement of laws against CSEC is challenging, because identifying victims can be difficult due to a general lack of public awareness of the nature of this crime. Also, victimized children are reluctant to identify themselves as victims and report their victimization, particularly when members of their own family are involved in the exploitation. Victims come from all backgrounds, sexes, nations, and economic levels. The degree of traumatization experienced by CSEC victims is well documented. The traumatization is intensified by jurisdictions that treat child victims of sex trafficking as offenders. Girls are often arrested for prostitution. Outcome evidence for prevention and intervention programs for CSEC victims is limited. Available research tends to focus on adults who are commercially and sexually exploited. The evaluations that have been conducted have failed to meet the quality standards for such research. Recommendations for improving the response to CSEC are offered. 38 references