Despite increased effort to respond to human trafficking at national and state levels, very little empirical research has been conducted on domestic child sex trafficking. This study retrospectively examines associations between multiple risk factors and domestic child sex trafficking (i.e., entry into the commercial sex industry under the age of 18) in a sample of individuals aged 16 and older currently involved in the commercial sex industry (N = 273). Two primary research questions are addressed: (1) What set of risk factors, prior to entering the commercial sex industry, are associated with domestic child sex trafficking and (2) what group differences, if any, exist in risk factors between current or former domestic child sex–trafficking victims and non-trafficked adults engaged in the commercial sex industry? A cross-sectional survey was administered using Respondent-Driven Sampling (RDS) in five cities in one Midwestern state. Overall, 115 participants (48.3%) were identified as current or former domestic child sex–trafficking victims. Bivariate results suggest that childhood emotional and sexual abuse, rape, ever running away from home, having family members in sex work, and having friends who purchased sex were significantly associated with domestic child sex trafficking. Multivariate results indicate that domestic child sex trafficking victims were significantly more likely to have ever run away and to be a racial/ethnic minority than non-trafficked adults engaged in the commercial sex industry. Findings can inform state-level policies on human trafficking and assist child protection and juvenile justice agencies in developing prevention and intervention responses to commercial sexual exploitation.
Risk Factors for Domestic Child Sex Trafficking in the United States
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