What is Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)?

CSEC is a form of child abuse in which children are engaged in commercial sexual acts by exploiters or pimps. It is a serious crime that occurs at rates much higher than most people realize.

The commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) includes:

  • Sexual activity involving a child in exchange for something of value or the promise of something of value
  • When a child (age 17 years of younger) is treated as a commercial and sexual object

Sexual abuse and remuneration in money, goods, or services; or the promise of money, goods, or services and includes:

  • Street prostitution
  • Pornography
  • Stripping
  • Erotic/nude massage
  • Phone sex lines
  • Escort services
  • Private parties
  • Gang-based prostitution
  • Interfamilial pimping
  • Forms of internet-based exploitation

Exploiters and pimps target vulnerable youth, many of whom have histories of running away, abuse, and neglect. What initially seems like love and security often turns into control, manipulation, and violence, making it difficult for youth to step forward, identify as victims, or seek help. 

Legal Definitions

  • The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000

    The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.

  • In Massachusetts

    A Human Trafficking victim is defined as: A person who is subjected to harboring, recruitment, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting for the purpose of inducement to perform a commercial sex act, forced sexual services and/or sexually explicit performances.

    A Sexually Exploited Child is defined as any person under the age of 18 who has been subjected to sexual exploitation because such person:

    • Is the victim of sexual servitude...is the victim of sex trafficking
    • Engages, agrees to engage or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in exchange for a fee, or in exchange for food, shelter, clothing, education or care;
    • Is a victim of the crime of inducing a minor into prostitution
    • Engages in prostitution-related offenses

Indicators / Red Flags of Child Trafficking (English | español | português)

  • Relationships & potential grooming
    • Spending time with older teens or adults
    • Romantic or sexual involvement with older teens or adults
    • Messages or calls from older adults
    • In-person meeting with person(s) met online
    • Access to unaccounted for goods: money, clothing, cell phones, beauty products/routines
    • Access to hormone injections that are unaccounted for or that youth can’t afford
    • Carrying weapons or drugs for “boyfriend”
  • Physical
    • Multiple STIs
    • Signs of physical assault, sexual assault, or injury
    • Multiple pregnancies or terminated pregnancies
    • Tattoos or branding
    • Drastic change in appearance
    • Substance abuse or addiction 
  • Behaviors
    • History of running away and/or truancy
    • Use of slang related to CSEC
    • Inappropriate technology use: communication & posting online
    • Reporting false name or age
    • Spending time in areas known for prostitution (hotels, addresses, streets)
    • Travel out-of-state
    • Gang-involvement
  • Emotional
    • Drastic behavior change
    • Trauma response: exhaustion, hypervigilance, fear, etc.
    • Distrust of adults
    • Mixed emotions re: exploiter
    • Increase in MH symptoms, distress
  • Labor Trafficking*
    • Works excessively long or unusual hours
    • Is unable to take breaks or time off
    • Has unusual restrictions at work
    • Was recruited under false promises of nature/condition of job
    • Is not paid, is paid very little, or pay is withheld by employer
    • Has been physically/sexually abused by employer
    • Individual or youth is not able to leave their job
    • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off

    *FYSB Runaway and Homeless Youth Training & Technical Assistance Center