The Reality of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
January 20, 2023
January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a month where the detrimental business of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)—commonly referred to as child sex trafficking—is highlighted.
According to the 2022 Annual Report release by the South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force, nearly 96% of the human trafficking cases seen in South Carolina were minors. CSEC refers to a range of crimes and activities involving the sexual abuse or exploitation of a child for the financial benefit of any person or in exchange for anything of value (including monetary and non-monetary benefits) given or received by any person. In 2022, Dee Norton’s IMPACT (Improving Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Address Child Trafficking) Program assisted 31 confirmed child and youth victims of trafficking. Our organization also served 52 youth identified as being suspected victims, or at-risk, of trafficking.
Like other types of child abuse, often the first sign or symptom of CSEC is the child or youth disclosing. Children who are exposed to violence, exposed to substance abuse, have unstable or no housing, have unexplained luxuries or cash, have repeatedly run away or are truant have a higher risk of being exploited by perpetrators.
“To truly address CSEC in our community, we must first be willing to see the situation for what it is. A child cannot give consent. We must see children who are trafficked for sex as children. They are victims,” says Beverly Hutchison, Executive Director of the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center. “Most often, traffickers prey on at-risk children, using coercion and mental manipulation. The internet has opened another vehicle for child victimization, with social media and online chat rooms. No matter how it presents itself in the Lowcountry, we are there to advocate for and support the youth from the first point of contact.”
To support the prevention and response to trafficking, Dee Norton is offering actionable steps for parents, caregivers or community members:
Be an Involved and Trusted Adult
- We know that children who have a strong adult presence and support system have a lesser chance of being trafficked or manipulated into exploitation.
- Keep open communication lines with children and youth.
- Know where your child is spending time. Treat a child’s online environment the same as you would treat their physical environment. Know where they are going and who they are spending time with.
- Talk about safe internet usage. Discuss the potential impacts of their photos and online image. Encourage them to come to you if an online interaction makes them uncomfortable.
Respond Correctly Should Youth Disclose
- Your response to the disclosure of trafficking, or any abuse, can have a major impact on youth’s ability to heal.
- Remain calm. Staying calm tells your child you can handle their emotions and that you are willing to hear and comprehend what the child is saying.
- Allow the child to talk. It takes courage and trust for a conversation about revealing abuse to happen, so acknowledge their experiences by giving them the time to speak with you.
- Do not blame or minimize the child’s feelings. As uncomfortable as these conversations are to hear, they can be more uncomfortable to say. Acknowledge their experience and feelings and turn to the professionals to assist with next steps.
- Take action. It could save a child’s life. If you have a concern about the safety and well-being of a child, Dee Norton is your place to turn
Utilize Professional Resources to Report
- Local Law Enforcement
- National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
- SCDSS Hotline if you are a Mandated Reporter: 1-888-227-3487
- In immediate danger or an emergency, call 911