Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking
Sex trafficking is often described as a modern day slavery, where individuals are coerced or forced to perform commercial sex. In the case of minors under the age of 18, any engagement in commercial sex is considered to be human trafficking, regardless of coercion.
With today’s advancements, many people are aware of the crisis that is human trafficking. However, many do not realize the overwhelming fact of the matter that our youth are becoming the most vulnerable group of this phenomenon being referred to as Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST). In an article “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the United States,” Kimberly Kotrla describes those at highest risks for becoming victims of DMST, as well as why this terrifying issue remains prevalent in our society.
Like any other issue in our society, lawmakers soon realized the importance of creating legal ramifications for these crimes through legislation such as The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). Most experts suggest “there are currently at least 100,000 DMST victims in the United States (estes & weiner, 2002; Smith, 2008), with up to 325,000 more at risk for becoming such victims (estes & weiner, 2002; Hughes, 2007; U.S. Department of Justice, 2007a).” This idea of the overwhelming number of victims at risk, stems from the fact that research shows that there majority of women involved in prostitution were introduced to the commercial sex industry before reaching the age of 18. It is often easy to blame victims for this path they seemingly chose to embark on. However, according to research, the culture in which we live may be partially responsible for the way the sex trafficking industry thrives. In countries with major commercial sex markets, such as the United States, there is a “culture of tolerance,” molded by this demand to maintain the way we glamourize prostitution and pimping. At a very young age, our children internalize this fact and in turn fall victim to the risk factors that lead to DMST.
Unsurprisingly, this overwhelming experience often has significant psychological and traumatic effects on the child. In many cases, the trafficker is related to the victim allowing them advantages such as shelter, money, and food. These “rewards” create a sense of belonging that many victims may have lacked in the childhood previously. In order to understand the depth of these psychological issues, it is important to understand the child’s perception of their identity as a victim. Those that can identify their trafficker as a perpetrator were less susceptible to trauma and depression.
Gozdziak, E., Bump, M., Duncan, J., MacDonnell, M., & Loiselle, M. B. (2006). The trafficked child: trauma and resilience. Forced Migration Review, (25), 14-15.
Kaplan, D., & Kemp, K. (2015). Domestic minor sex trafficking: An emerging health crisis. Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 31(7), 1-6.
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