Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) has recently received much needed attention, but is by no means a new issue. Researchers have tried to approximate the scope of the problem, but it has proven extremely difficult to produce an accurate estimate of children who are victims of or at risk for CSEC in the U.S. State-level prevalence rates are equally difficult to produce, but a recent report estimated that more than 1,000 U.S.-born minors are sex trafficked in Ohio annually and thousands more are at risk for victimization.
CSEC victims experience a host of negative consequences associated with their exploitation. Researchers have found that trafficked persons are at increased risk for physical and mental health problems, particularly as they relate to trauma, as well as substance use issues. CSEC has been found to compromise proper developmental growth as well as negatively impact future attachments. For victims, trusting others can be difficult or impossible, and social isolation is a risk. CSEC victims also often face legal consequences for their “involvement,” which may be particularly true for undocumented victims.