Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Outreach & Support

 What is Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST)?

Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is the commercial sexual exploitation of American children within US borders through prostituition, pornography and /or erotic entertainment.

DMST is:

  • Child sex slavery
  • Prostitution of children
  • Demand driven  and the product for sale is local (domestic) children

Every night thousands of children walk the street of U.S. cities prostituting themselves, caught up in a vicious cycle of abuse. They come from cities, small towns, and rural areas of every corner of our country. They have run away from sexually or physically abusive family situations or from the pressures and problems that are so common to all teens and adolescents. They have been lured away from their homes by false promises of new and exciting lives. Some have even been kidnapped. What these children have found is a life that in no way reflects the glamour that Hollywood would want us to believe is the life of prostitution in such films such as “Pretty Woman” and “Showgirls”. Instead, they are victims of abuse and degradation that would horrify most people.

Some Facts:

  • Child exploitation is a five billion dollar ($5,000,000,000) per year international industry.
  • Majority of victims are between the ages of 12 – 14  years old.
  • Children as young as 10 are actively recruited for sexual exploitation or pornography.
  • Exploited children come from a wide variety of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds and represent a cross-section of urban, suburban, and rural youth. The picket-fenced home and faith filled family is no exception.
  • There are more than two and a half million runaway and throwaway youth on the streets of our nation at any given time and over one third of those left home due to sexual abuse.
  • The sex industry is about power, and the predators stalking these victims avoid anyone who may be uncontrollable or dangerous.
  • Anyone can  be a trafficker including family members

National Statistics:

  • 450,000 children run away from home every year. (U.S. Department of Justice)
  • An estimated 10-15% of children living on the streets have been sexually exploited. (Estes and Weiner, 2001)
  • 1 out 3 teens on the streets will be lured into sexual exploitation within 48 hours of leaving home. (National Runaway Hotline)
  • The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12 to 14. For boys and transgender youth, the average age into prostitution is 11 to 13. (Estes and Weiner, 2001)
  • Approximately 55% of homeless girls engage in formal prostitution; of the girls engaged in formal prostitution, about 75% worked for a pimp. (Estes and Weiner, 2001)
  • Between 100,000 and 3 million teens are prostituted in the United States every year. (Department of Justice)  

Who are the victims of commercial sexual exploitation?

Victims of child sexual exploitation could be of any age, ethnicity, race, religion, socio-economic class, gender and sexual orientation.

Who is especially vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation?

Children most vulnerable to sexual exploitation are those who are neglected, runaway/thrown-away/homeless, poor, drug-involved, or who have a history of abuse, and are within the foster care and child protective services systems.

Why don’t victims seek help?

Commercial sexual exploitation victims often feel that they have no safe place to turn. Most victims are isolated from family and friends, and are in captivity or confinement. They may feel fear, shame, self-blame, or hopelessness. Due to isolation, they may also be dependent upon the pimp/trafficker. Many times, prostituted youth have been groomed by pimps to distrust systems and law enforcement, and they are not aware of existing services. Victims are regularly subjected to threats, physical/sexual/psychological abuse, and live in fear of their pimps/traffickers.

Who are the pimps/traffickers?

They are anyone who benefits from the commercial sexual exploitation of a youth/minor (under 18 years old), or facilitates the commercial sexual exploitation of a youth/minor. Pimps/traffickers can be anyone (boyfriend, father, mother, brother, uncle, even a peer), of any gender, age, or ethnicity, and are not always organized criminals.

Who are the buyers?

Buyers or “johns” are recipients of the sexual services. They can be of any age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. They are equally as responsible for the crime, despite their lack of intent or knowledge of age or victim status.

Myth: Sexually exploited youth knew what they were getting into.

Fact: Victims of commercial sexual exploitation are often seduced, coerced, tricked or forced into prostitution. Pimps seek out youths’ vulnerabilities and exploit their hope for love, desire for security/protection, and need to obtain basic needs (i.e. food, shelter, and clothing).

Myth: Sexually exploited youth are criminals.

Fact: Sexually exploited youth are victims of commercial sexual exploitation or sex trafficking.

Myth: The sexually exploited youth was paid for his/her services.

Fact: All or most of the money earned by commercial sexual exploitated youth goes directly to the pimp/trafficker. The youth are sometimes provided with just enough money to purchase the food or clothing items that they need, but only with the pimp/trafficker’s permission. It is rare that the child victim gets to keep any money.

Myth: Sexually exploited youth have freedom of movement and can escape if they want to.

Fact: Victims of commercial sexual exploitation are often subjected to ongoing physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, threats and intimidation. They are kept in physical and emotional bondage and are often not free to leave.

Myth: U.S. citizens cannot be victims of sex trafficking.

Fact: Any child who is forced to perform a commercial sex act for the benefit or gain of a pimp/trafficker is a victim of sex trafficking. Victims can be U.S. citizens or non U.S. citizens.

Myth: Sexually exploited youth who are trafficked within a state do not qualify for federal victim assistance.

Fact: Sexually exploited youth are victims of human sex trafficking. All victims of human trafficking qualify under federal law for victim assistance.

Myth: It’s not trafficking when the trafficker/pimp and the victim are related.

Fact: Anytime someone profits from the sale of a child for a commercial sex act, that person is a trafficker.

Myth: It’s not trafficking unless victims are moved across borders.

Fact: Trafficking refers to the act of benefitting from the commercial sexual exploitation of a child, not the act of moving a child.

Pimp/traffickers tactics:

  • Maintain power and control through a cycle of attention, affection, threat, force, coercion and violence, many times combined with forced drug use
  • Frequent moves or travel far from home
  • Isolation of sexually exploited youth from family and friends, making the relationship with the pimp/trafficker the only one they have.

Pimp/traffickers-controlled commercial sexual exploitation of children is linked to:

  • Escort and massage services
  • Private dancing, drinking and pornographic clubs
  • Major sporting and recreational events
  • Major cultural events, conventions, and tourist destinations
  • Local gangs and/or nationally organized crime networks

Resources for Sexually Exploited Youth & Family/Friends

If you believe that you may have come into contact with a commercially sexually exploited child, it is important that you collaborate with key service providers (social and health service providers, state Department of Social and Health Services, and law enforcement) to help the victims and services they need.

Children and youth who are commercially sexually exploited are victims of sexual assault, kidnapping, and human trafficking. As victims, they are entitled to resources and benefits available to crime victims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and get the protection of the Crime Victims Compensation Program (CVC). CVC can help with expenses such as medical benefits, wage replacement, prescription coverage, counseling, benefits for permanent disability, travel and property reimbursement. CVC is a payer of last resort. Application for Crime Victims Compensation and additional information is available online.

Exploited youth may be U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, or foreign nationals. Some may have been exploited within a city/town; others may have been trafficked across state lines, or internationally.

For Family and Friends 

Child Advocacy Center 910-486-9700

Rape Crisis of Cumberland County   910-485-7273

National Human trafficking Resource Center 1-888-373-7388

North Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking  (NCCAHT)  919-871-1015

North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault 919-871-1015

North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence  919-232-9124