Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking
WHAT IS DOMESTIC MINOR SEX TRAFFICKING (DMST)?

Domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) is the commercial sexual exploitation of American children within U.S. borders.  It is the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act” where the person is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident under the age of 18 years.  

The age of the victim is the critical issue - there is no requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion was used to secure the victim’s actions. A child under the age of 18 years of age is automatically considered a victim of “severe forms of trafficking” due to the age alone.  

In fact, the law recognizes the effect of psychological manipulation by the trafficker, as well as the effect of the threat to harm which traffickers/pimps use to maintain control over their young victims.  In the absence of a trafficker/pimp selling the youth, the perpetrator paying for the sex act with food, a bed, or a ride becomes the trafficker. 

DMST includes but is not limited to the commercial sexual exploitation of children through prostitution, pornography, and /or erotic entertainment. 

DMST is child sex slavery, child sex trafficking, prostitution of children, commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), and rape of a child. 

Sex trafficking is demand-driven and the product for sale is most commonly local (domestic) children. 


The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines a victim of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking as a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident minor under the age of 18 involved in a commercial sex act. This law emphasizes a “victim-centered approach” to human trafficking and creates an extensive framework of victim’s rights.

Some rights given to Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking victims are:
1. They are not culpable for crimes committed as a direct result of their victimization
2. They should not be detained in facilities inappropriate to their status as crime victims
3. They must receive necessary medical care and other assistance
4. They will be provided protection if their safety is at risk or if there is danger of recapture of the victim by the trafficker



THE ISSUE
•    The U.S. Department of Justice states that the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years old. [1]
•    The Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Report confirmed that underage girls are the bulk of victims in the commercial sex markets – this includes pornography, stripping, escort services, and prostitution. [2]
•    The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 cited the Congressional finding that 100,000- 300,000 children in the United States are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation at any time. [3]
•    The prostitution of American children is a nationwide problem. The Shared Hope International assessment of Las Vegas reports that 1,496 children from 40 states were trafficked into and arrested for prostitution in Clark County, Nevada between January 1994 and July 2007. [4]

PIMP CONTROL: Traffickers/Pimps use violence and psychological manipulation to control girls and convert their bodies into cash. “Well, I think I knew what he was, but I needed what I felt was being offered to me, which was protection, someone to care for me, someone that cared if I got hurt or if anything happened to me, which of course was all lies. I just wanted someone to care.”
- Kristy Childs, Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking - Prostituted Children in the United States: Identifying and Responding to America’s Trafficked Youth, Shared Hope International training video, 2008.

•    The U.S. Department of Justice states that at least 75% of minors exploited through prostitution are controlled by a pimp. [5] Traffickers and pimps target vulnerable children and recruit them into prostitution using violence and psychological torture to hold the victims in bondage.
•    The Internet is a common tool of traffickers/pimps - every assessed location identified the use of the Internet as a common vehicle for the selling of children for sex. For example, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Vice Unit of the Salt Lake City Police Department estimates that 1 of every 100 advertisements posted on the craigslist.com erotic page involves a juvenile. [6]
•    30% of shelter youth and 70% of street youth are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. [7]    In 2007, the Dallas (Texas) Police Department, Child Exploitation, High Risk Victims and Trafficking Unit identified 189 High Risk Victims - chronic runaways and youth with previous sexual exploitation. Further investigation revealed that 119 of those youth were child victims of sex trafficking.
•    Familial prostitution – the selling of one’s family member for sex in exchange for drugs, shelter, or money - is a large and overlooked problem in the United States; in fact 9 out of the 10 assessments performed by Shared Hope International reported familial prostitution as a severe form of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking occurring in the community. The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act identifies these parents/relatives as traffickers.

MISIDENTIFICATION: Exploited children are often labeled “child prostitutes” and punished for the crime that is committed against them. “I always felt like a criminal. I never felt like a victim at all. Victims don’t do time in jail, they work on the healing process. I was a criminal because I spent time in jail. I definitely felt like nothing more than a criminal.”
– “Tonya”, Survivor of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, featured in Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking - Prostituted Children in the United States: Identifying and Responding to America’s Trafficked Youth, Shared Hope International training video, 2008.

•    In 8 of 10 locations in which Shared Hope International implemented assessments of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, children are being detained in the juvenile justice system for prostitution or charges related to their exploitation. This is in direct conflict with their victim status under the Trafficking Victims8Protection Act - the federal law that identifies commercially sexually exploited children as trafficking victims. ]8]
•    Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking victims were found in each of the 10 U.S. locations assessed by Shared Hope International. For example, a single outreach organization in Las Vegas, Nevada identified 400 prostituted children in a single month (May 2007). [9] Minors who are engaged in prostitution are often misidentified and mislabeled as “child prostitutes.” They are punished for the crime that is being committed against them rather than identified as victims of sex trafficking as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act - the federal law that protects victims of trafficking.

CRIMINALIZATION: While children exploited in prostitution are often arrested, their buyers and traffickers go largely unpunished. “I think they should get time in jail too, because they’ve got to know that the women out there are scared for their lives, and they should try to help us get out of there somehow.”

-“Kelly”, Survivor of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, featured in Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking - Prostituted Children in the United States: Identifying and Responding to America’s Trafficked Youth, Shared Hope International training video, 2008.

•    State trafficking laws do not align with the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 9 out of 10 locations where assessments were conducted. This can impede the prosecution of traffickers/pimps and buyers of children while withholding victim status and special services from American children who are victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. [10]
•    When utilized, state and federal anti-trafficking laws have resulted in traffickers/pimps receiving sentences that range from 6 months in jail to 8 years in federal prison; however, assessments have revealed minimal application of these laws for cases involving prostituted American youth. Greater awareness of these laws and their application is necessary to increase the prosecution of these criminals.
•    Very few buyers of prostituted children are arrested or prosecuted in the United States. Law enforcement agencies face legal and systemic challenges that interfere with the ability to investigate, arrest, and prosecute buyers.
•    There is a severe lack of protective shelter for children who are victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. In the 10 U.S. locations assessed by Shared Hope International just one protective facility that specifically works with this victim population was identified – the Letot Center in Dallas, Texas.
[11]


1 U.S. Department of Justice – Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. <http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/prostitution.html>. Accessed on March 11, 2008.
2 “DEMAND.: A Comparative Examination of Sex Tourism and Trafficking in Jamaica, Japan, The Netherlands, and the United States,” Shared Hope International, July 2007. <www.sharedhope.org>. Accessed on September 10, 2008.
3 U.S. Cong. Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005. PUBLIC LAW 109-164 – January 4, 2005 <http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/61106.htm>
4 Vice Section, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) STOP Program. From January 1, 1994 - December 31, 2006 documented by “Rapid Assessment of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Facilitation of Services in Las Vegas, Nevada,” Shared Hope International, August 2007. <www.sharedhope.org>. Accessed on September 10, 2008.
5 U.S. Department of Justice – Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. <http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/prostitution.html>. Accessed on March 11, 2008.
6 “Rapid Assessment of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Facilitation of Services in Salt Lake City, Utah,” Shared Hope International, August 2008. <www.sharedhope.org>. Accessed on September 10, 2008.
7  Estes, R. & Weiner, N. “Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.” U
niversity of Pennsylvania, 2001.
8 “Rapid Assessment of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking”: Las Vegas, NV, Clearwater, FL, Baton Rouge/New Orleans, LA, Independence, MO, San Antonio, TX, Salt Lake City, UT, Buffalo/Erie County, NY, Fort Worth, TX
9 “Rapid Assessment of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Facilitation of Services in Las Vegas, Nevada,” Shared Hope International, August, 2007. <www.sharedhope.org>. Accessed on September 10, 2008.
10  The Missouri state anti-trafficking law aligns with the federal TVPA regarding the definition of DMST 11 “Rapid Assessment of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Facilitation of Services in Dallas, TX,” Shared Hope International, July 2008.

Resource:  Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking National Fact Sheet

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