Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) sex trafficking requires force, fraud or coercion UNLESS the victim is a minor. Any minor used in a commercial sex act (the exchange of any item of value for a sex act) IS a victim of trafficking, regardless of their willingness to engage in the sex act.
Victims of sex trafficking come from a variety of ethnicities and socioeconomic groups.
The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-year-old.
Many underage victims come from dysfunctional homes and a history that often includes running away, truancy, drug abuse, and/or sexual abuse. Because the trafficker fills an existing void in the victim’s life, they often mistake the exploiter for a boyfriend or caring adult. Due to fear and strong trauma bonds with the trafficker, victims rarely self- identify, making it difficult for first responders to recognize them as a victim and intervene.
A trafficker, often known as a pimp, is anyone who profits by receiving cash or goods in exchange for a sex act with a minor.
Traffickers commonly use recruitment tactics such as seduction, befriending, and coercion to lure vulnerable youth. Traffickers rarely kidnap their victims. Instead, the chains are more often psychological, placed on victims through the manipulation of a trafficker who has taken advantage of their emotional and physical needs.
Buyers, also known as “johns,” are average citizens rather than abnormally sadistic psychopaths. They are all ages and from all social classes. Most are married or partnered, pastors, lawyers, doctors, or law enforcement.
Sex trafficking is fueled by demand for commercial sex. Whether it’s pornography, prostitution or stripping, buyers demand a supply that traffickers often fulfill by preying upon the most vulnerable.