M. Finklea Specialist in Domestic Security
Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara Specialist in Social Policy
Alison Siskin Specialist in Immigration Policy
trafficking of individuals within U.S borders is commonly referred to as
domestic human trafficking, and it occurs in every state of the nation.
One form of domestic human trafficking is sex trafficking. Research
indicates that most victims of sex trafficking into and within the United States
are women and children, and the victims include U.S. citizens and noncitizens
alike. Recently, Congress has focused attention on domestic sex
trafficking, including the prostitution of children—which is the focus of
Federal law does not define sex trafficking per se. However, the term “severe
forms of trafficking in persons,” as defined in the Victims of Trafficking
and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA, P.L. 106-386) encompasses sex
trafficking. “Severe forms of trafficking in persons” refers, in part, to “[s]ex
trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or
coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not
attained 18 years of age....” Experts generally agree that the trafficking
term applies to minors whether the child’s actions were forced or appear
to be voluntary.
The exact number of child victims of sex trafficking in the United States is
unknown because comprehensive research and scientific data are lacking.
Sex trafficking of children appears to be fueled by a variety of
environmental and situational variables ranging from poverty or the use of prostitution
by runaway and “thrown-away” children to provide for their subsistence needs to
the recruitment of children by organized crime units for prostitution.
The TVPA has been the primary vehicle authorizing services to victims of trafficking.
Several agencies have programs or administer grants to other entities to
provide specific services to trafficking victims. Despite language that
authorizes services for citizen, lawful permanent resident, and noncitizen
victims, appropriations for trafficking victims’ services have primarily been
used to serve noncitizen victims. U.S. citizen victims are also eligible for
certain crime victim benefits and public benefit entitlement programs,
though these services are not tailored to trafficking victims. Of note,
specialized services and support for minor victims of sex trafficking are
limited. Nationwide, organizations specializing in support for these victims
collectively have fewer than 50 beds. Other facilities, such as runaway
and homeless youth shelters and foster care homes, may not be able to
adequately meet the needs of victims or keep them from pimps/ traffickers
and other abusers.
In addition, it has been suggested that minor victims of sex trafficking—while
too young to consent to sexual activity with adults—may at times be
labeled as prostitutes or juvenile delinquents and treated as criminals
rather than being identified and treated as trafficking victims. These
children who are arrested may be placed in juvenile detention facilities
instead of environments where they can receive needed social and
Finally, experts widely agree that any efforts to reduce the prevalence of
child sex trafficking—as well as other forms of trafficking—should address
not only the supply, but also the demand. Congress may consider
demand reduction strategies such as increasing public awareness and prevention
as well as bolstering investigations and prosecutions of those who buy illegal commercial
sex (“johns”). In addition, policy makers may deliberate enhancing services for victims
of trafficking. Congress may address these and other issues if policy makers
choose to take up the reauthorization of the TVPA, which expired at the
end of FY2011.
Date of Report: August 15, 2012
Number of Pages: 47 Order Number: R41878 Price: $29.95
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