The underground commercial sex economy (UCSE), is the second largest black market in the U.S., recently surpassing the illegal gun trade and second only to the drug market. Although currently behind the drug trade, research has suggested that many traffickers are switching from drugs to sex. Traffickers are attracted to the commercial sex economy by its relatively low risk and the ability to “recycle” children for greater profit.
Research estimates that as many as 300,000 American children are at risk of being victimized by sex trafficking, entering “the life” at an average age of 14-16 years old (Shared Hope International).
This activity is not isolated to any specific geographical location, nor does it target certain races or socioeconomic classes.
To date, responses to child sex trafficking have been focused almost exclusively on the supply side of the equation. Providing rescue and rehabilitation services to survivors is crucial, but this approach only addresses half the issue. It does not target what perpetuates the industry: Demand.
To end the demand, we must focus on protecting children before they are exploited, raising awareness that this is really happening in our cities, as well as arresting and aggressively prosecuting the traffickers and purchasers.
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