Academic journal article Child Welfare

Effectively Responding to the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Comprehensive Approach to Prevention, Protection, and Reintegration Services

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Effectively Responding to the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Comprehensive Approach to Prevention, Protection, and Reintegration Services

Article excerpt

The commercial sexual exploitation of children is one of the most destructive forms of abuse. Although some efforts have been made to stop the trafficking in children and youth, they are far from sufficient. A coordinated local and global response is needed if this "ultimate evil" is to be ended.

Few, if any, forms of abuse and exploitation are more destructive than the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). This atrocity, rightly called the ultimate evil is defined as a fundamental violation of children's rights and comprises sexual abuse by a person and remuneration in cash or kind to the child or to a third person or persons.' In addition to suffering all the consequences of sexual abuse, the child (male or female) is treated as a commodity, and the child's body is sold to an abuser for the abuser's sexual pleasure. CSEC occurs in the sex trade businesses of prostitution, pornography, and trafficking2 for sexual purposes.

Scope of the Problem

Although little quantitative research of the sex trade business has been conducted, even the most casual survey of media accounts points to startling numbers of children involved.' Conservative estimates of CSEC indicate that more than two million children around the world are affected. That broad estimate includes one million children in Asian countries, hundreds of thousands in the former Soviet states and Eastern Europe, and hundreds of thousands in the United States. This estimate does not imply that children and youth in other parts of the world are less likely to be involved in CSEC. Indeed, as research and public concern about CSEC increases in other countries, the estimates of children involved may be far greater than originally thought.

The average age of children brought into this modern day form of slavery is estimated at 13 or 14. Although no precise universal data exist, some research suggests that the age of the children being sexually exploited is decreasing. Child and youth victims are both male and female; however, adult males are estimated to constitute at least 90% of the customers of prostituted children and youth of both genders. Importantly, only a small percentage of the abusers are considered to be "pedophiles" from a clinical perspective; most are tourists or businessmen who would not necessarily stalk or seek out children or adolescents in their own communities.

Physical and Sexual Violence for Profit

The worldwide sex trade is an industry believed to be generating billions of dollars.5 In most parts of the world, the brothels that use children function illegally and avoid disclosure. Businesses that operate with both government and public sanction, such as bars, strip clubs, massage parlors, and escort services, also may facilitate the sexual abuse of children. When the abuse of children is recognized and establishments are forced to close in one locality, the same owners and operators often move to a new place and resume business. The Internet has made CSEC a high-tech trade. Combined with the profitable nature of the sex trade, these factors present enormous challenges to stopping CSEC.

Once children and young people become involved in this horrific business, it seems almost impossible to rescue them. Most of the children involved in CSEC do not have the protection of their families. In the United States, these youngsters often are running away from abuse or neglect by their own parents. In other countries, parents may have sold their own children to help support the family. Alternatively, the parents may have been misled into believing their children were being offered the opportunity of legal and appropriate employment. The children may be moved to a country where they cannot speak the language and may be told by their captors that, because they have no passport, they can be imprisoned if they come forward. With no government intervention or support, they truly lack adults who are willing and able to act on their behalf. …

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