What is Domestic Sex Trafficking of Youth?

Domestic sex trafficking of youth refers to the commercial sexual exploitation of youth who are US citizens and green card holders. In other words, young people are being forced, coerced, or deceived into having sex or doing sexual acts for money and/ or drugs.  

Sex trafficking is often viewed as an international issue because it is difficult to imagine such a horrible crime taking place in our neighborhoods. In reality, it happens to girls, boys and transgender individuals. Young people are recruited into sex trafficking by former/current romantic partners, family, or friends. 

The Intersection between Dating Abuse and Domestic Sex Trafficking of Youth  

The main similarity between dating abuse among youth and domestic sex trafficking of youth is the abusive partner’s use of threats and violence to maintain power and control. In addition, survivors of both share experiences of shame, abuse by romantic partners who betrayed their trust, may not recognize signs of abusive behavior and have experienced similar barriers to seeking help (lack of awareness of legal and social services). 

Youth who are or have been in sexually abusive dating relationships are at high risk of domestic sex trafficking because they have experienced physical and sexual violence by a romantic partner. In addition, many young survivors view their relationship with their trafficker as a dating relationship. As a result, domestic sex trafficking can be viewed as a severe type of dating abuse.  

Most people perceive domestic sex trafficking of youth as a separate issue from dating abuse among youth. However, it is important to remember that both dating abuse among youth and domestic sex trafficking of youth are a range of experiences of physical and sexual violence against youth by their romantic partners. 

The abuse is not your fault. You did not do anything “wrong” to cause the abuse. You do not deserve to be abused.