Domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST), which is the commercial sexual exploitation of children through buying, selling, or trading their sexual services, is happening in the United States. Forms of DMST include prostitution, pornography, stripping and other sexual acts.
At least 100,000 American children are being exploited through pornography or prostitution in this county every year. The age of trafficked children vary. The average age a child is first exploited through prostitution is 13 years old, though children as young as infants have been identified in pornography.
Traffickers and pimps use physical, emotional and psychological abuse to coerce young women and girls into a life of sex trafficking. Traffickers are master manipulators and employ tactics to create a trauma bond between the victim and trafficker. Traffickers often use the threat of violence against victim or a victim’s loved one to secure their submission.
Age is the primary factor of vulnerability. Pre-teen or adolescent girls are more susceptible to the calculated advances, deception, and manipulation tactics used by traffickers/pimps – no youth is exempt from falling prey to these tactics. Traffickers target locations youth frequent such as schools, malls, parks, bus stops, shelters and group homes. Runaway or homeless youth as well as those with a history of physical and sexual abuse have an increased risk of being trafficked.
The buyers of sex from juveniles can be anyone – professionals, students, tourists, military personnel, a family member. They can be Hall of Fame football stars like Lawrence Taylor, business leaders like Sunflower Markets CEO Michael Gilliland, or politicians like former New York Governor Elliott Spitzer. Because buyers often pay in cash and may interact with a victim for as little as five minutes, buyers are increasingly difficult to identify.