Commercial sex exploitation of children (CSEC) is a practice that involves exploiting children sexually for money. The victim could be a child or someone below the age of consent. A wide range of abuses falls under CSEC, such as child prostitution, child pornography, phone sex channels, erotic massage, forced marriages, and other internet-based exploitations. CSEC is a crime and is prevalent across the globe.
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Calculating the exact prevalence rate is challenging because of the clandestine nature of the practice and the lack of consistent data. In 2016, every single day, estimates show that 4.8 children were sexually exploited worldwide (Statistics on trafficking and exploitation, n.d.). In the USA, 1 in 6 runaways reported in 2020 out of a total of 26500 were victims of sex trafficking (Statistics on trafficking and exploitation, n.d.). In 2019, the US National Human Trafficking Hotline received 11500 situations (Statistics on trafficking and exploitation, n.d.). The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received an excess of 21.7 million (Statistics on trafficking and exploitation, n.d.). Most of these are related to sexual abuse of children, sextortion, child sex trafficking, and child sexual molestation.
The government handles CSEC issues in California through a department under the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). California became the first state to provide training against human trafficking to teachers and students. Governor Brown signed the Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act to amend the California Education Code Section 51934 (Commercial sexual exploitation of children, 2021). According to CDSS, some resourceful local organizations combating CSEC include the California Alliance of Child and Family Services and the California Coalition for Youth. Some others include the Children’s Law Center of California, the Youth Law Center and the West Coast Children’s Clinic, and the National Center for Youth Law (CSEC Related Organization, n.d.). These organizations liaise with national organizations to protect children against sexual exploitation.
Interview with Local Organizations on Proposed Solutions
Interview with the Youth Law Center
An interview was conducted with a representative from Youth Law Center to provide information about the current situation in CSEC-related issues. The representative gave a background of the problem; they said California had become a hotbed for commercial exploitation of children and that the agency has developed proposals on combating CSEC. Some recommended solutions included the development of a comprehensive response strategy for victims of child sexual exploitation. She suggested that an integrated approach to support victims would require a safety plan for both clients and staff involved. In addition, the system required multi-agency collaboration built around trust and building relationships. Finally, from the interview, cultural competency is critical in the restorative program as victims are from diverse backgrounds. It is vital to keep caution not to exacerbate the already traumatized victims.
Interview with the California Coalition for Youth
The second interview involved a representative from the California Coalition for Youth. When asked whether the California government was doing enough to combat the CSEC menace, the representative said that the government had accomplished critical milestones on the issues, such as the passage of the Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act. On emerging challenges, the representative noted that the Internet had become a primary source for predators to lure children into exploitation. When probed if the Internet had helped fight the issue, she gave a quick yes, noting that victims have been rescued after their disappearance went viral on the Internet. Asked if legal pornography sites contributed to the issue by encouraging a culture of sex commoditization, she said they had encouraged consumers of legal pornography to report on incidences that appeared suspect as involving minors.
Missing Treatments, Interventions, or Programs
First of all, it seems that California lacks a large-scale public awareness program aimed at informing the population about the risks of encountering the issue of child sex trafficking. The California government has partially addressed the problem of raising awareness by including education about child sex trafficking in the curriculum at public schools. This is a significant action, but more can be done to ensure that people are aware of the problem. For example, web-based advertisements could be launched to build community awareness, which could be helpful because the internet-based recruitment of sex trafficking victims is a topical issue nowadays.
Another problem with existing programs and interventions is that there is no screening and assessment tool that would reliably detect victims of child sex trafficking. A review of available tools conducted by WestCoast Children’s Clinic (2016) in California revealed that none of them met all the criteria required for quick, early, and reliable identification of child sex trafficking victims. For example, one major disadvantage of the existing screening tools is that they rely on self-disclosure (WestCoast Children’s Clinic, 2016). This reduced their effectiveness as children often do not view themselves as victims, and the information retrieved from a single source is less reliable than that obtained from multiple sources. However, WestCoast Children’s Clinic (2016) identified three tools that are the closest to meeting the set criteria: the Vera TVIT, the Covenant House HTIAM, and the San Luis Obispo tool. Therefore, there is a need to create a screening and assessment tool or update an existing one to make sure that it is effective in identifying child sex trafficking victims.
as little as 3 hours
The Needs of Children and Their Families
The immediate needs of victims of child sex trafficking include physical and mental medical help. Twigg (2017) also notes that basic necessities are as vital for children’s recovery as emergency medical care because many sex-trafficked children do not get quiet sleep and need food and clothing. Children also require family support because it is a crucial step in their recovery, but not all of them have a family. For those victims without parents, social or medical workers sometimes try to find any relatives, even distant ones and encourage them to talk with the child at least once a week (Twigg, 2017). Ongoing needs include the provision of mental health care to both the child and caregivers. Sometimes, legal advocacy is also required to bring justice against the criminals who involved the child in sex trafficking (Twigg, 2017). Long-term needs are linked to sex trafficking victims’ succeeding in their everyday life after their recovery. They include life skills training, long-term housing at residential treatment centers, and, sometimes, job skills training (Twigg, 2017). For example, in the long run, sex trafficking victims need to be taught to cook, manage their finances, do the shopping and cleaning, and perform other daily chores.
The Creation of an Ideal Program for Children
An ideal program for children who have been victims of sex trafficking would address all of their immediate, ongoing, and long-term needs. First of all, children in the program should be treated non-judgmentally throughout the recovery process because feeling judged can prevent them from self-disclosure and receiving care. Second, the program should address the mental health care needs of the child and the family to ensure that any mental issues do not remain untreated and that the child has positive relationships with the relatives. The program would also include a mentorship intervention because children and youth could benefit from the learning experiences of those who successfully got out of sex trafficking. Finally, children need to be provided with life skills training to be able to function in the community successfully.
Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in society. Societal ills such as poverty, crime, broken families, war, genocide, and sex trafficking affect children disproportionately. CSEC is the practice that involves the sexual exploitation of children for money. These activities include child prostitution, child pornography, phone sex channels, erotic massage, forced marriages, and other internet-based exploitations and are criminalized internationally, nationally, and locally. The national government has prioritized the issue and formed agencies that deal with the crime. On the other hand, the California government recognizes that California is a hotbed for crimes and has demonstrated goodwill by being the first state to offer training for children and teachers on the issue. The state still needs to improve its efforts directed toward raising public awareness about the issue and developing an effective screening tool for detecting child sex trafficking victims.
CSEC-related organization. (n.d.).
Statistics on trafficking and exploitation. (n.d.). ECPAT-USA.
Twigg, N. M. (2017). Comprehensive care model for sex trafficking survivors. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 49(3), 259-266.
WestCoast Children’s Clinic. (2016). Memorandum summarizing the available screening tools to identify commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC).