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The Hidden Nature of Sex Trafficking


We live in a world where people are sold for sex. Not just adults; children too—millions of vulnerable children. We also live in a world where these victims lack the resources and support they need from their families, communities, and government to break the cycle and fulfill their destinies.


The act of sex trafficking is currently defined as a commercial sex act being induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is not yet 18 years old. It also threatens the victim using physical harm, psychological harm, reputational harm, harm to others, and/or debt manipulation.


When we hear this definition of sex trafficking, we can be tempted to only imagine scenes from movies or far off acts, women being abducted from their cars or children being snatched from the street. Sex trafficking, however, encompasses so much more.


High schoolers can traffic their partners throughout their high school in exchange for money or increased popularity. Parents can traffic their young children in exchange for drugs, alcohol, or money. A teenager can be groomed into a relationship with someone online and asked to participate in sex acts to aid the partner in paying for things like rent or groceries.

 

Trafficking can often be happening right in our communities,

hidden in plain sight.

 

Globally, a lot of the same vulnerabilities are true for those at-risk of being trafficked for sex. Often, those at risk may live in under-served communities, experience family dysfunction, display behavioral or mental health concerns, or live in an area that does not have a great awareness of child trafficking and its impact on the community. An estimated 1.7 million children are exploited in sex trafficking around the globe, an industry that generates a sickening $150 billion dollars per year, two-thirds of which is attributed to commercial sexual exploitation.

Roughly 50,000 people are trafficked in the United States annually. These victims are often trafficked by someone they know: a family member, a friend, or a romantic partner. Nevada, unfortunately, has been given an “F” by independent watchdog groups in dealing with child commercial sexual exploitation. Severe gaps remain in the state’s policies, legislation, and continuum of care.


Tanzania, on the other hand, has increased funding within their government, in addition to implementing the 2021-2024 National Action Plan. Beyond these measures, however, the 2023 TIP Report indicates the Tanzania government investigated fewer crimes and did not convict any traffickers in the reported year, and identification measures are inconsistent. In Tanzania, trafficking often occurs following a promise to provide a better life for the individual, whether it be employment, education, or a prosperous marriage. Rural and underserved communities are often targeted to better enhance the promise.


This is why Courage Worldwide exists.


We envision a world where child survivors of commercial sexual exploitation have the resources they need to heal and reintegrate successfully into society as independent and healthy young women. We envision a world where child survivors can pursue their dreams, find joy, and experience the empowerment of knowing someone believes in them.


Join us in this dream.


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