The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC) have released a new report entitled "Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States." The report contends that the commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States are "commonly overlooked, misunderstood, and unaddressed forms of child abuse," and that the nation's professionals tasked with protecting children and adolescents are often not prepared to prevent, identify, or respond to these crimes.

While sexual exploitation and trafficking of minors is a serious concern for US national security, it has only recently become the focus of scholarly research. In light of the lack of definitive data and statistics on this issue, the IOM and NRC formed the Committee on Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States. The purpose of the Committee was to conduct a study on the prevalence and characteristics of sexual exploitation and trafficking of minors in the US and to learn how policymakers and law enforcement can better identify, prevent, and respond to these types of incidents.

The following are the main results of the study:

  1. "There is substantial and compelling evidence that commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States are serious problems with immediate and long-term adverse consequences for children and adolescents, as well as for families, communities, and society as a whole.
  2. Efforts to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation and [...] trafficking […] are essential but largely absent.
  3. Effort to identify and respond to commercial sexual exploitation and […] trafficking […] are emerging, […] but efforts to date are largely undersupported, insufficient, uncoordinated, and unevaluated.
  4. Efforts to prevent, identify, and respond to [incidents] require collaborative approaches that build upon the core capabilities of people and entities from a range of sectors
  5. Efforts to address commercial sexual exploitation […] and trafficking […] need to confront demand and the individuals who commit and benefit from these crimes."

In order to rectify these issues surrounding the exploitation and trafficking of minors, the report recommends "increased awareness and understanding, strengthening of the law's response, strengthening of research to advance understanding and to support the development of prevention and intervention strategies, support for multi-sector and inter-agency collaboration, and creation of a digital information-sharing platform."