On Child Sex Trafficking in the United States

There has been a lot of misinformation with regard to child sex trafficking in the United States, as well as how it plays out. As such, I thought it was important to dedicate a blog post solely to the facts on child sex trafficking, how it plays out, and where one can go to learn more about and properly advocate for child sex trafficking victims as well as help put an end to it.

I should start by noting that child sex trafficking isa serious issue, yet the data is a little shaky on what the true extent of it is. I am not saying this to sound paranoid, but instead to point out that it has been difficult to get good estimates on exactly how many children are victims of child sex trafficking each year. Several years ago, it was estimated that somewhere in the neighborhood 10,000 children a year are victims of sexual exploitation in the United States, but that number could be as low as 4,500 or as high as 21,000.[1] However, even if the number of children experiencing sex trafficking each year is closer to 4,500, it is 4,500 too many. It is a serious problem.

Not only is this a serious problem, but it may surprise some people as to who is trafficked and how child sex trafficking plays out. For example:

  • Even though it may be tempting to believe that the majority of child trafficking victims in the U.S. comes from foreign countries, most domestic trafficking victims are American citizens.[2]
  • Even though a common stereotype of trafficked victims is that they are kidnapped, fewer than 10% of child sex trafficking cases involve kidnapping. However, causes of child sex trafficking are varied and complicated.[3]
  • Traffickers often prey on economically and socially vulnerable children—for example, children who have experienced physical or sexual abuse, children in poverty, and children on the streets.[4]
  • Statistically, children who are Native Americans or LGBTQ+ are among the youth most vulnerable to child sex trafficking.[5]

As to where one should turn for information and advocacy on this issue, I strongly urge people to turn to organizations with a long record on human trafficking issues. Organizations such as the Polaris Project and Anti-Slavery International[6] are dedicated to educating people properly on child sex trafficking, and human trafficking issues in general, so that they can be empowered to tackle this issue in whatever ways they are able. Additionally, such organizations are focused on anti-human trafficking issues worldwide—important since human trafficking is really a global issue, even if this blog post focuses on how one aspect of human trafficking (child sex trafficking) plays out in the United States.

I would also recommend supporting organizations that support the types of children who are most likely to be vulnerable to child sex trafficking and/or advocate for children most likely to be vulnerable. Organizations like Prevent Child Abuse America (dedicated to preventing child abuse in the United States), Covenant House (focused on providing housing and supportive services to youth facing homelessness), and True Colors United (which focuses on LGBTQ+ youth homelessness) all serve groups of people most likely to become victims of child sex trafficking. As such, support of the work of organizations such as these, and others I did not mention here, should be seen as part of a strategy of limiting child sex trafficking by limiting the number of vulnerable children in the first place.

I also urge people in the media to promote organizations that are doing crucial work on this issue. There needs to be coverage on the facts that: a) child sex trafficking is a serious issue in this country and b) there are organizations out there working hard to address this issue. For the sake of making sure the general public is informed on both the problem of child sex trafficking as well as solutions to it, news media needs to do this. The well-being of vulnerable children depends on it.

Last, but not least, I encourage all of us to make sure that we’re educated on how child sex trafficking plays out, so that we know how to talk with our friends and neighbors about how it exists and what legitimate efforts there are to combat it. Without that education, it is impossible for us to understand how the issue plays out, let alone how it can be addressed.


[1] Note that this is only an estimate, and there’s high potential for this number being much higher or lower than said here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/09/02/the-fishy-claim-that-100000-children-in-the-united-states-are-in-the-sex-trade/

[2] https://www.unicefusa.org/child-trafficking-us

[3] https://polarisproject.org/blog/2020/08/what-we-know-about-how-child-sex-trafficking-happens/

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/child-sex-trafficking-lgbtq-youth-among-most-vulnerable-n718301

[6] As a relevant aside, this organization dates back to 1839!

Human Rights Violations at the World Cup: An Ugly Side to the Beautiful Game

I am a big fan of soccer/football, also known by some who love the sport as “the beautiful game.” It’s to the point that my own Twitter feed notes my support of a long-suffering team in the second tier of the English footballing system.

Given my fandom of soccer/football, what I am about to say breaks my heart: the World Cup, on every occasion in recent memory, is not just a soccer/footballing spectacle, but also a spectacle in human rights violations.

For example, various forms of slavery often have a presence at the World Cup. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is already gaining notoriety for using forced labor, even though that World Cup is four years away (if it even still happens in Qatar, which is no guarantee). Sadly, the problem is not limited to Qatar—in each of the three World Cups previous to 2018, issues with sex trafficking were widespread. World Cup hosts such as Germany (2006) and South Africa (2010) had major issues with this,[1] and a World Cup child trafficking bid was foiled just yesterday.

Furthermore, labor abuses are commonplace while these nations prepare for the World Cup. Much of the attention is on Russia right now since they’re hosting, and rightfully. As of the middle of 2017, it was reported that as many as 17 people have died in preparations for the World Cup as a result of labor abuses.[2] However, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar also deserves attention for all the people who died as a result of labor abuses while preparing for their World Cup.[3] Lamentably, labor abuses are frequently an issue while nations prepare for the World Cup.

And then there’s the mass displacement of people as a result of preparing for the World Cup. Jacob Zuma, who was the President of South Africa when his country hosted the World Cup in 2010, drew criticism because of the mass evictions of people in the run-up to the tournament. Brazil’s mass displacement of people while preparing for their World Cup in 2014 gained international press attention. Sadly, the World Cup often seems to displace people.

For all that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has drawn criticism for its human rights violations (and rightfully so), human rights violations sadly seem to exist at every World Cup, no matter where it is held. Qatar is bad with its human rights violations, but this doesn’t mean that we should hold the current World Cup hosts or the previous ones as beacons for justice in the midst of their preparing for their World Cups.

All of the injustice that is tied to these World Cups begs the following question: How do we respond? Some of us have responded or will respond by not watching the World Cup at all, in protest of these human rights abuses. Others of us will turn a blind eye and watch the World Cup, for one reason or another. But then there are people like me, people who are torn between a game they love and human rights violations they hate.

I personally haven’t been able to reconcile these two tensions, the tension between the soccer/football I love and the hatred of human rights violations that play out at every World Cup. However, I think a good start is to at least inform ourselves of the various human rights violations that happen at every World Cup. That’s the least we can do.


[1] A group of nuns who were backed by Pope Francis noted that “sexual exploitation rose 30 percent in connection with the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and 40 percent at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.” Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-soccer-world-trafficking/nuns-backed-by-pope-warn-of-human-trafficking-at-world-cup-idUSBREA4J0IS20140520

[2] https://www.cbssports.com/soccer/news/world-cup-2018-fifa-blamed-for-deaths-and-widespread-abuse-of-stadium-workers/

[3] http://fortune.com/2016/03/31/qatar-world-cup-workers/

Soccer Ball for World Cup Post
This is an image of “Telstar 18,” the official match ball of the 2018 World Cup. Source: Wikimedia Commons Contributors, “File:Rus-Arg 2017 (11).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the Free Media Repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rus-Arg_2017_(11).jpg&oldid=272527602 (accessed June 10, 2018).