Frequently Asked Questions

What is sex trafficking? Sex trafficking is when a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion OR when the person induced to perform the act is under 18 years old. A commercial sex act means any item of value is traded for any sexual service (prostitution, pornography, or sexual performance). Domestic minor sex trafficking is the commercial sexual exploitation of American children within U.S. borders for monetary or other compensation (shelter, food, drugs, etc.). This is synonymous with child sex slavery, sex slavery, child sex trafficking, prostitution of children, and commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).
Is child sex trafficking happening in the United States? Yes. 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.
What about the girls who choose prostitution? Are they vicitms of trafficking too? 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 or desire to engage in the sex act.
Why don’t victims escape when they have the opportunity? 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 trauma bonds with victims. Traffickers often use the threat of violence against victims or victim’s loved ones to secure their submission.
How do traffickers or pimps recruit victims? Many pimps often use a “lover-boy” technique to recruit girls from middle and high schools. A lover-boy will present himself as a boyfriend and woo the girl with gifts, promises of fulfilled dreams, protection, adventure – whatever she perceives she is lacking. Traffickers use social media sites to recruit teenagers. After securing her love and loyalty, he will force her into prostitution.
What makes a child vulnerable to child sex trafficking?


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 social media sites, 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 may have an increased risk of being trafficked.

Internet Safety Threats

Pimps are continually trolling the internet posing as a teen girl or boy interested in friendship. The relationship is developed without threat until the unsuspecting child agrees to meet them, to send compromising photos or shares their deepest secrets with them. That’s when the predator can move in and begin to separate them from their safety nets.

What is the difference between a trafficker and a pimp? Nothing. A pimp is another name for a trafficker. A trafficker/pimp is any person who causes an adult (using force, fraud or coercion) or any minor to engage in commercial sex in order to profit from the exploitation of that individual.
Who buys sex? The buyers of sex from juveniles can be anyone – professionals, students, tourists, military personnel, a family member. Because buyers often pay in cash and may interact with a victim for as little as five minutes, buyers are increasingly difficult to identify. To view information about buyers in your state, visit
What if someone I know is being groomed for trafficking or is being trafficked?

Learn to recognize the signs and report a tip with one of the following phone numbers:

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children: 1-800-843-5678

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888

The National Runaway Switchboard: 1-800-843-5678

How does pornography affect the trafficking industry?

Viewing pornography may be a solo act; however, the production of the material and the social and relational consequences of the behavior extends far past the individual. Children and adults endure brutal rape and abuse at the hands of pornographers and may require years of specialized therapy to heal from the intense trauma inflicted on them.

The effects of pornography can skew the viewer’s perception of healthy sexual behavior and boundaries, impacting the viewer’s personal relationship with a spouse or significant other. Trafficked women and children may face an increased risk of violence or degradation due to the normalization of deviant sex acts propagated through pornography.

Adapted from Shared Hope International.