PART I: What is Child Sex Trafficking?
I am a consultant with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign as an expert regarding domestic child sex trafficking. Further, I have engaged in public speaking for various agencies, including schools, the Rotary, and Foster Care Kinship regarding this pressing issue in America today. I am a Certified Trainer for the Prevention Project, a curriculum for middle/high school students regarding child sex trafficking, signs, symptoms, and response, within our schools.
Globally, every 26 students, a child is trafficked for sex. Yet, this is more than a global concern, but an American concern. The child sex slave trade of America’s own children is very real and (no-not done by the Hollywood Elite like Tom Hanks or the now deceased Queen of England - EEK QAnon!). Until recently the advertisement of America’s children for sex online was legal.
This blog series will be a 3-part series regarding domestic child sex trafficking. Part I will introduce child sex trafficking, Part II will provide signs and symptoms of familial child sex trafficking, and Part III will provide information regarding the clinical effects of familial child sex trafficking.
What is child sex trafficking?
No, it does not mean sending kids over state lines or transporting persons.
Child sex trafficking is the sale of sexual services of children in exchange for goods, money, or other services. For example, a mother might sell her child in exchange for rent money and vacations. A mother might sell her child for drugs. Parents together might sell their child to make their car payments. A pimp (aka trafficker) might sell love and attachment-starved children aged 12 to 16 on the streets of Oakland, California for money.
What are the general forms of Child Sex Trafficking?
Familial trafficking is sale of children by family members in exchange for goods, money, or other services. Due to a lack of data collection by child trafficking tracking agencies in the United States, it is unknown how many children are sold by family members. Estimates range from hundreds of thousands of children per year to 2.5 million American children per year, depending on your source. As inflation rises in America and folks become more desperate, there is a concern that parents and relatives may turn even more to such a heinous crime for income.
Famlial child sex trafficking also includes the production of child pornography by family members.
Unlike within pimp-based trafficking (see below), parents have open access to much younger children and are able to sell their kids without provoking much suspicion. While pimp-based traffickers generally sell kids aged 12 and up whom they can disguise to look older, family members can pimp infants, toddlers, and young children. These children demand a higher price and may be sold within small circles known the family trafficker. Alternatively, the family member might sell the child online. Or both.
The family member might also be a member of a gang, cartel, or mafia, and then may sell the child through a much greater network, across international borders and state lines.
As a public speaker, I typically speak about familial trafficking, one of the more popular forms of child trafficking due to convenient access to the child that family members hold. Yet, it is also one of the least addressed. It is insidiously done in secret and may occur over generations (or alone).
Pimp Based Trafficking
Pimp-based trafficking is the sale of children by professional “pimps.” These persons might sit outside youth hostels, group homes for teens, the mall, and public middle schools and high schools to recruit kids. They use highly manipulative tactics and are able to spot the children who are the most love and attachment starved.
They may use Romeo tactics to “boyfriend” children showing them the love they never had. Once they have become their “partner,” they sneakily begin convincing the child of financial needs the child must fulfill. For example, the “boyfriend” pimp might tell the child that he needs help paying the rent in order to coerce the girl to have sex for money.
Yet, the pimp may also simply abduct the child while out on a date or while traveling, taking all of her money, shoes, car keys, and identification. The pimp might break the child in, locking him or her in a hotel, pumping them full of drugs, and having friends gang rape the child until they feel they are no longer present (derealization) and have lost who they are (depersonalization). The pimp may take the child on any of the pimp trafficking highways in America (for example, Highway 101 up and down California, stopping at major hubs (for example, Humboldt, California). The child then not only is completely broken, but is location disoriented. With no way to contact the outside world, the child is now the pimp’s sex slave.
Note: Pimps can be male, female, queer, transgender, or of any gender affiliation. Likewise, the child sex slave can be of any gender as well. Do not be deceived
Organized Child Sex Trafficking is committed by organized gangs, cartels, or mafia syndicates. With gangs, older gang members may make trafficking part of gang initiation for younger fledgling members. This is seen within our nation’s high schools and middle schools. As a Licensed Educational Psychologist, I am sure to ask kids who share that they have a boyfriend/girlfriend, the age of their romantic partner. If significantly older, this raises red flags in my mind. Other signs of such trafficking include: the child is coming to school late, missing school more often, comes to school with more costly items (gifts), and speaks lovingly of their older boyfriend/girlfriend. The child may appear with bruises or marks (or not). The child’s affect may have significantly changed over a short period of time. The child may also speak of “going on trips” with their significant other that sound suspicious.
Police sometimes set up stings within our nation’s high schools to address gang-based child sex trafficking of younger kids (e.g. seniors trafficking freshmen). Gang members may park outside the schools to protect their profits and pick up their kids after school.
In my next blog, I will discuss the signs and symptoms of familial trafficking in schools for educators and community members. They are quite different and unique to familial trafficking.