U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICESAdministration for Children and FamiliesAdministration on Children, Youth and FamiliesFamily and Youth Services Bureau
Prostitution. Pornography. Survivalsex. Commercial sexual exploitationis more than just young people beingsexually abused by adults. Perpetratorsvictimize young people by paying, orpromising to pay, money, goods or servicesto a youth—or a pimp—in exchange forsexual acts or entertainment.The impact of commercial sexualexploitation on young victims is oftendevastating. Instead of attending school,they face violence, disease and jail. Beforethey are even old enough to vote, they losetheir dignity and their freedom. They sufferemotional trauma that may never go away.Helping young people escape fromexploitation should be a top priority ofcommunities and youth workers everywhere.
Some Youth Are More at Risk Victims come from cities, suburbs and small towns across the country, from all races, ethnic groups and walks of life. Still, certain young people are more likely to be victimized: • Girls (though the proportion of boys who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation is growing) • Youth with a history of abuse and neglect at home • Runaway, throwaway and homeless youth It’s that final group that is particularly at risk. Surviving on their own, runaway and homeless youth— both boys and girls—may be forced to exchange sex for basic needs, like food or housing. One in three young people are approached or recruited by a pimp or exploiter within the first 48 hours of being on the street. According to one study, 70 percent of youth on the street eventually become victims of some form of commercial sexual exploitation, and 30 percent of youth living in shelters also fall victim, some recruited by other residents.What might count as, or lead to, commercial sexualexploitation of young people, both male and female?• Modeling • Prostitution• Stripping • Pornography• Escort and massage services • Survival sex• Immigrant servitude
No One Choosesto Be ExploitedTo help these young people,it’s important to rememberthat no one chooses tobe exploited. Exploitersuse violence, threats andmanipulation to control theirvictims psychologicallyand financially.Signs of SexualExploitationIdentifying victims is oftendifficult. They move or are movedfrequently. They don’t trust adultsand are particularly fearful of lawenforcement. Often, they don’tthink of themselves as victims.However, some signs include: • Highly controlled or restricted schedule, money or communications • Unidentifiable source of income • Unexplained absences of days at a time • Unexplained source of new clothing and personal items • Gaps in life story or • Bruises or other physical defensiveness in response to signs of abuse questions or concerns • A tattoo that the young person • Paranoia or lack of trust is reluctant to explain (for • Self-blame or feelings of instance, being “branded” with humiliation or shame an exploiter’s name on the neck, chest or arms) • Disassociation or lack of connection to the • Isolation from family, friends or outside world other social networks • Malnourishment • Secrecy or vagueness about whereabouts • Untreated health and dental problems
What Victims of SexualExploitation NeedAn honest, nonjudgmentallistener. Victims of sexualexploitation are often fearful andashamed. To open up, they needsomeone who can listen to thedetails of their life compassionatelyand respond honestly. Rememberthat relationships between victimsand exploiters are often complex.Never badmouth the exploiter ortell the victim to “just leave.”A safe environment. Talk to apotential victim away from others,particularly someone who seemscontrolling. Discuss safety issues depression, anxiety, post-traumaticupfront. Victims often know the stress, and the impact of traumabest ways to keep themselves safe. and physical or sexual abuse.Establish code words or signals theycan use to let you know when to Vocational and life skillsleave immediately or not approach. training. Exploited youth often need a whole host of basic skillsCulturally competent services. to help them make a new start.Enlist the help of others who Contact your local transitionalspeak the victim’s language and living program. (Programs fundedunderstand his or her culture. by the Family and Youth ServicesMake sure that referrals you make Bureau are listed on its Web site,are culturally competent as well. www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/fysb.)Safe housing away from Extensive medical and dentalexploiters. Don’t assume that care. Victims are often preventedyour facility or neighborhood by their victimizers from gettingshelter is secure. Pimps and proper care. Many have injuries thatother exploiters may hang out were never properly treated. Theynear homeless youth shelters, also are at extremely high risk foraiming to recruit new victims. sexually transmitted infections andDiscuss safety concerns with your should have a complete medicalsupervisor or the manager of your screening as soon as possible.local shelter or transitional livingprogram. Work to create a facility- Community ties. Because victimswide safety plan for all victims of have been so isolated from theircommercial sexual exploitation families and friends, they often feeland relationship violence. that going back to their exploiter is the only option. ReestablishingMental health services. Find healthy social connections isprofessionals trained to deal with
crucial. Be aware, however, that to get help. They might need evenexploiters often use victims to longer to begin to heal and establishrecruit other youth. stable lives for themselves. Don’t expect victims to suddenly beTime. In some cases, it takes “fixed.” Let them know that you willmonths or even years to convince offer support as long as they need it.sexually exploited young peopleWhen to Involve the PoliceIf the client gives permission, his or her age. For minors who areyou can involve police any time. victims of a crime, the situation mayAs you are building the young mean that you are legally required,person’s treatment plan, include if you are a “mandatory reporter,”steps that will involve the appro- to inform the police if you havepriate law enforcement agencies enough information for local law en-and the courts. forcement to file a report. For older youth, if the client does not want toIf the client does not give permis- go to the police, it may be hard tosion, what you do may depend on get police or the courts to help.When to Tell theYouth’s Family MembersIf the client gives permission, you may want to informfamily members if you know where to find them and theirinvolvement would aid the young person’s recovery.If the client does not give permission,what you do may depend on the typeof program you run and the length oftime the young person will be withyou. If contacting family is part of thetreatment plan the client has alreadyagreed to or a condition for the youthto continue to receive long-termservices from the agency, then youmight still want to get in touch withfamily members who could aid theyoung person’s recovery. If you haveonly had a short relationship with theyoung person or he or she will onlystay in your shelter for a few days,you might choose not to contactfamily or to wait until you have astronger relationship with the victimand he or she has committed to atreatment plan.
Learn MoreNational Center for Missing and Salvation Army –Exploited Children PROMISE Initiativewww.ncmec.org www.salvationarmyusa.orgGirls Education and Mentoring ECPAT InternationalServices, or GEMS (End Child Prostitution, Childwww.gems-girls.org Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes)Federal Bureau of www.ecpat.netInvestigation’s InnocentImages National Initiativewww.fbi.gov/publications/innocent.htmCommercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: What Do We Know andWhat Do We Do About It? A report by the National Institute of Justicewww.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/215733.pdfGet HelpChildren of the Night National Runaway Switchboard24-Hour Hotline 1-800-RUNAWAY1-800-551-1300 Rape, Abuse, & Incest NationalNational Human Network, or RAINNTrafficking Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE1-888-3737-888Report the Exploitation of a Young PersonCyberTipline1-800-843-5678www.cybertipline.comBought and Sold: Helping Young People Escape from CommercialSexual Exploitation was developed for the Family and Youth ServicesBureau; Administration on Children, Youth and Families; Administrationfor Children and Families; U.S. Department of Health and HumanServices by JBS International, Inc., under contract number GS10F0285Kto manage the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth (NCFY).For more information NCFYabout commercial sexual P.O. Box 13505exploitation of young people, Silver Spring, MD 20911-3505contact NCFY. (301) 608-8098 (301) 608-8721 (fax) email@example.com ncfy.acf.hhs.gov