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A Word About Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) and Human Trafficking

As stated elsewhere in this Manual, the term Human Trafficking is used by DCF as an umbrella term to include the two allegations of abuse: Human Trafficking – Sexually Exploited Child, and Human Trafficking – Labor.

Victims of human trafficking in the United States include children, both girls and boys, involved in the sex trade who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts for the financial benefit of another person, and children forced into different forms of labor or services, for example, as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor in exchange for shelter or threats of deportation.

While exact numbers are difficult to assess, it was reported that in 2020 there were 10,583 confirmed instances of human trafficking in the United States that involved the sex or labor trafficking of 16,658 individuals. 147 In terms of human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) within the United States, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reported that in 2020 it received 17,200 reports of possible child sex trafficking – and those reports came from all 50 states. 148 In 2021, the NCMEC CyberTipline received more than 29.4 million reports of online child sexual abuse material (CSAM) involving photographs and videos of the sexual assault of minor children (including infants), most of which were related to online enticement, including “sextortion”, child sex trafficking, and child sexual molestation. 149

Other examples of human trafficking of children include the commercial sexual exploitation of boys and girls on the streets or in a private residence, club, hotel, spa, or massage parlor; exotic dancing/stripping; agricultural, factory, or meatpacking work; construction; domestic labor in a home; restaurant/bar work; illegal drug trade; door-to-door sales, street peddling, or begging; or hair, nail, and beauty salons. Traffickers may target minor victims through social media websites, telephone chat-lines, after-school programs, at shopping malls and bus depots, in clubs, or through friends or acquaintances.

As with child abuse and neglect, there are certain signs and vulnerabilities that children exhibit when they are victims of human trafficking. Children with these background elements can and do fall prey to this form of victimization:

  • History of emotional, sexual, or other physical abuse.
  • History of running away or current status as a runaway. Traffickers know runaways are in a vulnerable situation and target places such as shelters, malls, or bus stations frequented by such children.
  • Signs of current physical abuse and/or sexually transmitted diseases. Such signs are indicators of victimization, potentially sex trafficking.
  • Inexplicable appearance of expensive gifts, clothing, or other costly items. Traffickers often buy gifts for their victims as a way to build a relationship and earn trust.
  • Presence of an older boy- or girlfriend. While they may seem “sophisticated” and “protective”, older boyfriends are not always the caring men they appear to be.
  • Drug addiction. Pimps frequently use drugs to lure and control their victims.
  • Withdrawal or lack of interest in previous activities. Due to depression or being forced to spend time with their trafficker, victims lose control of their personal lives.
  • Gang involvement, especially among girls. Girls who are involved in gang activity can be forced into prostitution.

A more complete list of physical and behavioral indicators can be found on the NCMEC fact sheet entitled “Child Sex Trafficking Overview”(2022). 150

Children or youth who may be at risk of or who are victims of human trafficking may also show signs of shame or disorientation; demonstrate an inability to attend school on a regular basis and/or have unexplained absences; make references to frequent travel to other cities; exhibit anxiety, or fear; lack control over their schedule and/or identification or travel documents; are hungry, malnourished, deprived of sleep, or inappropriately dressed (based on weather conditions or surroundings); and have coached or rehearsed responses to questions. 151 Children who exhibit these physical and behavioral symptoms must be brought to the immediate attention of DCF, as this form of abuse (human trafficking) requires mandatory reporting.

In terms of CSEC prevention education for children and educators, a recent (2021) literature review 152 showed that although there are a few promising programs, there is little available in terms of training programs that have undergone any formal or rigorous evaluation for effectiveness. There is significant evidence that prevention education in school settings has proven to work across a variety of contexts. Yet, despite the policy guidance and national-level agreement 153 that schools are uniquely positioned to provide trafficking prevention education, only three states have enacted legislation to mandate CSEC education for children. A small number of other states, including Massachusetts, require educators to receive training on child trafficking awareness and identification, but stop short of making it mandatory.
A 2013 report 154 by the Massachusetts Interagency Human Trafficking Policy Task Force did recommend trafficking education for educators, school nurses, school counselors, and other school personnel but, again, no state mandate was enacted.

However, in 2019 the U.S. Department of Justice awarded the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office a grant to develop a Massachusetts Task Force to Combat Human Trafficking. The Commonwealth Anti-Trafficking (CAT) Task Force 155 is a multidisciplinary organization that is a model for locally led anti-human trafficking task forces. The effort is a collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, direct service providers, and state, local, and federal law enforcement to proactively investigate and effectively prosecute human trafficking in Massachusetts while also providing trauma-informed comprehensive services for its victims. The CAT Task Force receives referrals for all types of human trafficking cases and has a list of Massachusetts victim services providers. Referrals or questions should be communicated to the CAT Task Force through the Attorney General’s Office or via email to CATTaskForce@mass.gov.

Finally, the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance 156 provides a downloadable list of Human Trafficking & Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Services by County 157 , and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County 156 has a fact sheet on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children 158 including a list of physical, behavioral, and emotional indicators and red flags. Despite the caveats above, CSEC training and awareness programs and resources do exist and are available through the websites of the Justice Resource Institute, 159 My Life My Choice, 160 Darkness to Light, 161 the National Center for Homeless Education 162 (with specific links for educators), and the Polaris Project. 163

147 https://polarisproject.org/2020-us-national-human-trafficking-hotline-statistics/

148 https://www.missingkids.org/theissues/trafficking#bythenumbers

149 https://www.missingkids.org/ourwork/impact, and https://www.ecpatusa.org/statistics

150 https://www.missingkids.org/content/dam/missingkids/pdfs/CST Identification Resource.pdf

151 U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students, Fact Sheet (2013) Human Trafficking of Children in the United States. (https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oese/oshs/factsheet.html)

152 https://www.cfchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/policy-advocacy/policy-papers-csec-education.pdf

153 National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments. (2021b). School policies and protocols to combat trafficking. US Department of Education, Office of Safe and Supportive Schools. https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/human-trafficking-americas-schools/school-policies-protocols-to-combat-trafficking

154 https://www.mass.gov/doc/interagency-human-trafficking-policy-task-force-findings-and-recommendations/download?_ga=2.4037747.216696748.1647273021-1577966823.1609852691

155 https://www.mass.gov/info-details/commonwealth-anti-trafficking-task-force

156 https://www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-office-for-victim-assistance

157 https://www.mass.gov/doc/human-trafficking-commercial-sexual-exploitation-of-children-services-by-county-printable/download

158 https://www.suffolkcac.org/what-we-do/seen/what-is-commercial-sexual-exploitation-of-children-csec

159 https://jri.org/training/finder/child-exploitation

160 https://www.mylifemychoice.org/

161 https://www.d2l.org/education/additional-training/child-exploitation/

162 https://nche.ed.gov/csec/

163 https://polarisproject.org/resources/human-trafficking-101/


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