Child Predators and Sex Trafficking

People in all corners of the world are continuously exposed to a great number of crimes daily. With the emergence of new technologies and ways of communication, the scale and number of such crimes rise. While some offenses are vividly observable, others remain unseen by the general public due to their highly concealed nature. One such dangerous crime is sex trafficking that exposes millions of people around the world to forced sex labor.

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Although it affects women, men, and minors, children are the most vulnerable population impacted by child predators’ crimes and sex trafficking. Such a consideration is validated by the fact that children and adolescents are insecure about the right and wrong, they might be easily manipulated, and ultimately have their health, social identity, and psychological state impaired. Moreover, the high level of transparency of children online, as well as the availability of internet platforms for predators’ activities, aggravates the scope of the crime. Therefore, it is vital to work on the effective ways of such crimes early recognition and addressing to protect children from sex trafficking.

In this article, an overview of the prevalence of sex trafficking as a crime will be presented. Also, the behaviors of predators and sex criminals will be discussed with the following analysis of the influence of information technologies on the prevalence of child sex trafficking. The issue of the crime will be viewed from the perspective of its danger to all populations; however, acute attention will be paid to children and adolescents as the most vulnerable individuals. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the relationship between the emerging presence of communication technologies and the prevalence of child sex trafficking crimes.

Prevalence of Human Sex Trafficking

Sex trade and trafficking is a modern type of slavery that is embodied in the forced exploitation of people for sex labor. The goal of such activity is either for the offender to abuse another person or earn money out of selling sex services. The prevalence of such crimes in different countries of the world is alarming and requires acute attention from security bodies, governments, and the general public. According to the findings of the study by Litam (2017), out of 27 million people who become trafficked in the world every year, “4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation” (p. 45).

It is estimated that one in five runaway children is at risk of being involved in the sex trade, which is higher a rate than in 2014 when the same statistic was one in six children (Litam, 2017). The problem is both domestic and international because many victims of sex trafficking are abused in the same country, although some are being transported abroad.

The criminal activity of sex offenders demonstrates higher rates within the recent decade. Indeed, the acute attention of the general public induced by the MeToo movement has directed the discourse into the realm of the prevalence of sexual abuse (DiBennardo, 2018). Consequently, sexual predators have become one of the leading criminals not only in the USA but in other countries as well. The laws enacted in response to the intensified discussion of the analyzed crime have become stricter and “increasingly punitive” (DiBennardo, 2018, p. 1).

Such a danger of children being exposed to sexual abuse has triggered more precise definitions of sexual violence and has redefined the interpretation of deviant sexual behavior. This issue is gaining increased attention from scholars and decision-makers who work on ways to reduce the threats of sex trafficking.

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The Behavior of a Sex Offender

The discussion of sex trafficking and sex crimes has become more transparent under the influence of rising public awareness about the issue. However, many cases remain undisclosed due to an array of factors. They might include fear of the victim, moral restrictions, religious beliefs, and other considerations that suppress victims’ reporting of the offense. According to Salter (2018), there are several “domestic violence, rape, and child molestation that are never reported to police” (p. 2).

Indeed, the rising contemporary attention to the issue reveals many cases that have been long kept a secret. Hopefully, the awareness about the threats of becoming a victim of a sexual predator will help both children and adults avoid such cases or report them to the police. To prevent sex trafficking and other sex offenses, one should be able to identify the particularities of a sex offender’s behavior. Moreover, the mere concentration of the attention of the victims will not eliminate the cause of the problem. It is vital to research how and why offenders act in a way they do to prevent sexual offenses.

The actions of a sexual predator have been studied in-depth and presented as deviant behavior. As DiBennardo (2018) states, the definitions of sex offenders vary depending on the institution that presents it and is much likely to be shaped by the overall representation. The term ‘sexual predator’ entails such notions as a pedophile, pervert, and others, which are inherently attributed to negative meanings and violent intentions. An array of psychological and sociological theories is applied to the understanding of the causes of such behavior, as well as the perception of the problem by the public (Salter, 2018). One of the perspectives that significantly shape the way people portray sexual predators in the media.

The meaning of appropriate and inappropriate sexual behaviors is interpreted by the news media in a very open and polarizing way. According to the claims made by DiBennardo (2018), the media interprets the law, thus making the issue of the criminal domain one of public interest and concern. The law itself cannot portray a case as vividly as news stories can. Therefore, the language the reporters use, and the attitudes shape the image of sexual predators and impose definite awareness of the public toward sex-related offenses (DiBennardo, 2018). The study by DiBennardo identifies the adverse effects of news media’s portrayal of offenders that lead to dehumanizing and generalizing all offenders as monsters.

It was found that the victims’ representation of the news is disproportionate and concentrates more on children, whose cases are more often supported by visual images (DiBennardo, 2018). However, such a polarization of victims and abusers increases the scope of public awareness and contributes to the elimination of sex trafficking and other sexual offenses. Overall, the behavior of a sex predator is now transparent and becomes a reason for the identification of potential criminal behavior.

Sexual Grooming

Many studies agree that the behavior of a sexual offender is marked by a specific and often latent set of actions. According to Winters and Jeglic (2016), the endeavors of a sex predator to capture a victim and remain unidentified are at the center of the criminal’s concern. Such a process of interacting with a potential victim before the incident is called sexual grooming. The definition of the term states that grooming is “a process by which a person prepares a child, significant others, and the environment for the abuse of this child” (Winters & Jeglic, 2016, p. 724).

It entails the establishment of a particular kind of relationship with a victim and ensuring the secrecy of the crime. The goal of the predator is to manipulate a child and the community so that the commitment of the offense is possible without any detection and punishment (Winters & Jeglic, 2016). Thus, it is important to identify the main stages of the grooming process to facilitate their detection in a real-life situation and be able to avoid becoming a victim of a sex predator.

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The first stage of grooming consists of the selection of a victim. This process is based on the analysis of the child’s living conditions, physical and psychological particularities that imply his or her vulnerability. These might be insignificant physical development, problems in the family, isolation from peers, and other factors (Winters & Jeglic, 2016). For example, as a former male trafficker revealed to NBC news, targeted primarily the individuals who seem vulnerable, lacking family relations and love (Murray, 2019).

Once the victim is selected, the predator proceeds to the second stage, which is “gaining access to the potential victim” through the isolation of the child from others and building communication with him or her (Winters & Jeglic, 2016, p. 726). After the victim has been isolated, the offender builds trusting relationships with the child and then proceeds to the establishment of physical contacts, which will gradually lead to sexual interaction.

Since the first step, the selection of a victim is a foundation of all the following steps of grooming, and it is vital to address it from the perspective of potential threats and their elimination. Internet and children’s transparency on social media exposes them to being victimized via technologies. A sex predator might not only find the victims online through social media posts and photos but also use the Internet as the platform for sex trafficking and the distribution of child pornography.

Internet and Sex Trafficking

Indeed, child pornography, which is often the aim of sex predators’ actions, evolves under the influence of informational technologies. The criminals use specifically designed online platforms that enable them to “exploit children at ever-increasing levels of anonymity” (Murray, 2019, p. 10). Free access and anonymity that are guaranteed by online platforms exaggerate the scope of the uncontrolled prevalence of sex offenses (Litam, 2017).

It complicates the process of detecting and investigating such crimes by police and exposes thousands of victims to sex trafficking. Moreover, the Internet is an endless field of potential victims, where the detection of vulnerable individuals is simplified by the overall emotional transparency of emotionally injured or sensitive children (Murray, 2019). Even more difficult, the cases of child molesting are for the investigation because of the irrelevant rate or reporting.

Children who are exposed to sex abuse since their early years of life might perceive predator’s actions as a norm because they have never been in another social situation (Murray, 2019). Therefore, the investigation of sex trafficking is a complicated endeavor that requires more in-depth research on the interaction between the Internet and sex crimes.

Some most famous and frequently used social media websites are the platform of sex trafficking in many countries of the world. Indeed, as the study by Litam (2017) demonstrates, such sites as Myspace, Twitter, and Facebook are the main tool in the hands of sex traffickers. Using these platforms, the offenders recruit vulnerable children and adolescents in the sex trade by manipulating them according to the stages of grooming discussed above.

Not only do the child predators select and establish a connection with their potential victims via the Internet, but they also exploit the opportunities of online services to earn money out of their crimes. Indeed, Litam (2017) found that such advertising websites as Craigslist and others are used to sell victims.

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Furthermore, the understanding of the characteristics of the potential victims might be a valuable contribution to the prevention of sex offenses in children. As the study by Litam (2017) suggests, people with low self-esteem are more likely to demonstrate specific online behaviors consisting of photo publications and other posts that seek reassurance. These people are easy targets for predators since an offender can effortlessly establish a trusting relationship with a victim merely by reassuring him or her. Therefore, it is vital to incorporate all the identified characteristics of both victim’s and offenders’ behavior to prevent sex trafficking.


In summation, child sex trafficking is one of the prevalent crimes in the USA and across the globe. The severity of the problem is aggravated by the overall vulnerability of younger citizens toward the influence of others, the secrecy of the abuses, and the emerging anonymity that is provided by online platforms. Social media and advertising websites become facilitators of the criminal activity of child predators.

Many studies have identified the patterns in predators and victims’ behaviors that might increase the chance of successful prevention of the crimes related to sex trafficking. This paper contributes to the scope of scholarly investigation of the problem and provides a theoretical basis for raising awareness and preventing sex crimes against children.


DiBennardo, R. A. (2018). Ideal victims and monstrous offenders: How the news media represent sexual predators. Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, 4, 1-20.

Litam, S. D. A. (2017). Human sex trafficking in America: What counselors need to know. The Professional Counselor, 7(1), 45-61.

Murray, C. (2019). Technology and child sex trafficking: A comparative study of the United States, Venezuela, and the Philippines. Web.

Salter, A. (2018). Predators: Pedophiles, rapists, and other sex offenders. London, UK: Hachette.

Winters, G. M., & Jeglic, E. L. (2016). Stages of sexual grooming: Recognizing potentially predatory behaviors of child molesters. Deviant Behavior, 38(6), 724-733.

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