What is sex trafficking?
Federally, sex trafficking is defined as “the recruiting, harboring, moving, or obtaining of a person through force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation in order to gain money or favors.” If the person induced to perform the act is under 18 years old, this is also classified as sex trafficking regardless of the willingness of the person or the recruiting methods used by the pimp.
Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) is defined by Shared Hope International as the “commercial sexual exploitation of American Children within U.S. borders for monetary or other compensation (shelter, food, drugs, etc.).” You will also hear DMST used interchangeably with CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children).
Isn’t sex trafficking just prostitution?
While both prostitution and sex trafficking involve engaging in sexual relations, the means and purpose behind the act differ drastically. With prostitution, the person performing the act benefits, but with sex trafficking, the pimp receives the money or favors and the victim is left broken and abused. Sex trafficking also occurs when the person engages in sex acts for survival because of desperate circumstances.
Children under 18 cannot legally consent to sex, which automatically categorizes those involved as victims of sex trafficking. There is no such thing as a “‘child prostitute.”
Where is sex trafficking happening?
Globally, there are 4.5 million women and children that are victims of sex trafficking. In the United States, there are 100,000 new escort ads posted online every day. Our country also remains the world’s largest consumer of child abuse content such as child pornography, stripping, and sex trafficking.
Sex trafficking is also an issue in our area. In 2016, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported 106 cases of sex trafficking in Virginia, ranking 15th in the country. Virginia did not criminalize sex trafficking until 2015, and the loose laws in our state and the proximity to Interstate 81 has made Roanoke a key location for traffickers to recruit and sell their victims.
Read up-to-date news articles about sex trafficking in Virginia on our page In the News