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     Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

The National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction (August 2010)The sexual abuse and exploitation of children rob the victims of their childhood, irrevocably interfering with their emotional and psychological development. Ensuring that all children come of age without being disturbed by sexual trauma or exploitation is more than a criminal justice issue, it is a societal issue. Despite efforts to date, the threat of child sexual exploitation remains very real, whether it takes place in the home, on the street, over the Internet, or in a foreign land.

The Department of Justice’s National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction aims to protect the right of children to be free from sexual abuse. The goal of the National Strategy is to prevent child sexual exploitation from occurring in the first place, in order to protect every child’s opportunity and right to have a childhood that is free from sexual abuse, trauma, and exploitation so that they can become the adults they were meant to be.

OJJDP supports a number of training and technical assistance programs, collaborative demonstration programs, and research projects designed to address the commercial exploitation of children and assist its victims.

Training and Technical Assistance Programs

Adult counseling youth
  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Community Intervention Project
    Project Period: September 2006–November 2008
    Award Amount: $999,999

Overview. OJJDP awarded nearly $1 million to the Salvation Army to fund a multisite training and technical assistance program to assist communities in aligning investigative, prosecutorial, and victim service resources to reduce the impact of commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth (CSEC). The five program pilot sites are Atlantic City, NJ; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; San Diego, CA; and Washington, DC. The Salvation Army has established a technical working group, comprised of eleven experts in the field of child sexual exploitation, to assist and advising the pilot sites' project partners in developing and providing training curricula. The goals of the training program are (1) to involve CSEC survivors; (2) to build on existing, proven efforts; (3) to account for the unique characteristics of each location in each locally generated approach; and (4) to bring together expertise from several disciplines to develop and guide the program.

Highlights. Over 250 human service providers, law enforcement personnel, and child advocacy professionals from the five pilot communities completed a 4-day train-the-trainer curriculum to increase their knowledge of CSEC victim identification, appropriate service delivery models, and the need for special services specific to this population. This same group, along with scores of others, met to develop strategic response plans to guide their specific communities. Pilot communities will use the Training Manual and Community Response Guide, which is anticipated to be completed by August 2008 and available for distribution to other cities combating CSEC. For further information, see the Office of Justice Programs' press release.

  • Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) San Francisco, CA
    Project Period: October 2005–September 2008
    Award Amount: $428,629

Overview. The SAGE project launched an intensive, 2-year training and technical assistance project to assist OJJDP in building the capacity of selected organizations to address the needs of children and youth who have been victimized by commercial sexual exploitation. The project helps local government, criminal justice, and community-based organizations substitute approaches emphasizing the protection and provision of services to CSEC victims for those centered on their arrest and prosecution.

Highlights. SAGE has focused its efforts on providing targeted technical assistance to programs in Sacramento and Los Angeles, CA, that are building outreach and intervention projects targeting sexually exploited adolescents. Additionally, SAGE continues to provide training on its core programs, including the John's School, LifeSkills Program, and the Early Intervention Prostitution Program. For further information, visit the SAGE website.

Direct Service/Intervention Programs

  • Paul & Lisa Program, Inc.
    Project Period: June 2005–October 2008
    Award Amount: $1,335,659

Overview. The Paul & Lisa Program has been an active leader in program and policy development regarding sexual exploitation of youth and women for nearly a quarter of a century. The award supports the program's work, focused in Connecticut, to rescue and support CSEC victims. The grantee is undertaking Project CASE: Campaign Against Sexual Exploitation, a multiyear initiative designed to decrease the incidence of youth coerced or lured into child sexual exploitation and to provide comprehensive services leading to rehabilitation to assist CSEC victims. Project CASE's three-fold approach to education and outreach is designed to (1) significantly enhance the quality, depth, coordination, range, and impact of outreach and case management services to sexually victimized women and girls; (2) strengthen training for professionals who work with this target population; and (3) provide age-appropriate prevention education and community awareness programs for children, teachers, and community leaders in Connecticut and New York. The program's best practices for prevention education, outreach, and professional training will be nationally replicable.

Highlights. The program continues to develop collaboration strategies with Connecticut 's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. For further information, visit the Paul & Lisa Program's website.

  • The Home for Little Wanderers
    Project Period: October 2006–September 2008
    Award Amount: $300,000

Overview. This award supports the grantee's delivery of its My Life, My Choice curriculum to youth in Boston, MA, and the expansion of its curriculum and provider trainings statewide, as well as the development and implementation of a formal evaluation of the curriculum.

Highlights. The Home for Little Wanderers has expanded its delivery of the My Life, My Choice course throughout greater Boston and into the Boston Public Schools. An outreach campaign that includes posters and placards on buses, in subway stations, schools, and other highly trafficked public spaces was launched in January 2008. A hotline number was provided for CSEC victims to seek assistance.

  • Girls Education and Mentoring Services, Inc. (GEMS)
    Project Period: December 2006–March 2009
    Award Amount: $600,000

Overview. This award supports GEMS' efforts to address the problem of commercial sexual exploitation of children in New York City. Funds are intended to improve the grantee's provision of services to CSEC victims through the expansion of short-term residential treatment care and the delivery of life skills and other outpatient treatment options. The service expansion is accompanied by an emphasis on documenting and refining successful prevention and intervention strategies with CSEC victims. Through quantifying and detailing its approach, GEMS will improve its services. Program funds also underwrite expanded training of youth service professionals performing outreach efforts.

Highlights. GEMS continues to reinforce its infrastructure and expand its services to include a temporary crisis shelter and mid- and long-term residential treatment for CSEC victims in New York City and Atlantic City, NJ. GEMS is currently evaluating and codifying its existing outreach and intervention strategies to ensure maximum impact on victims served. For further information, visit the GEMS' website.

Collaborative Demonstration Programs

  • New York City Coalition Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
    Project Period: June 2003June 2009
    Award Amount: $532,162

Overview. Through this award, OJJDP partners with the Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator, New York City to support the New York City Coalition Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, a demonstration program designed to develop and strengthen effective collaboration among District Attorneys and their partners. The coalition consists of public and private entities that have joined together to enhance the city's response to the prostitution of children by sharing information and resources in order to increase the prosecution of traffickers, improve services to those who have been victimized, and prevent additional victimization through education, training, and enforcement. New York is also investing in a secure shelter environment for CSEC victims.

Highlights. Beginning in late 2007, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York increased its prosecution of CSEC cases dramatically. As a result, the Queens District Attorney's Office noted a sharp decline in the number of cases filed in Superior Court. The New York Major's Office requested funds, initially intended for the District Attorney's project, be reprogrammed to an intervention initiative focused on CSEC victims accused of delinquent offenses related to their victimization. This initiative will correspond with the opening of an OJJDP-funded shelter designed specifically for the support of CSEC victims that will be managed in conjunction with GEMS short- and long-term residential services.

  • Juvenile Justice Fund Fulton County
    Project Period: June 2003–March 2008
    Award Amount: $1,035,000

Overview. OJJDP has provided over $1 million to support the Juvenile Justice Fund's work with legal professionals and law enforcement, on the local and Federal levels, in assisting in the prosecution of perpetrators who sexually exploit children. In 2003, the Juvenile Justice Fund was awarded a planning grant to coordinate a community-wide initiative to identify strengths, barriers, and opportunities.

Representatives from more than thirty agencies took part in a 6-month effort to develop recommendations to be implemented over the next 5 years. Participants included two public school districts, two police departments, juvenile courts from two counties, the District Attorney's Office, the Children's Advocacy Center, the Department of Family and Children's Services, the Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, the United Way, and faith community, and other nonprofit agencies.

Highlights. A multi-agency memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlines protocols and policies addressing CSEC victims. The Fulton County initiative has implemented a multi-agency information system that enables agencies to input and track data on known or suspected cases of CSEC. The project employs a full-time coordinator to oversee the efforts of the county collaborative and ensure adherence to the spirit of the MOU and policy guidelines.

Research Projects

  • Pathways to Commercial Sexual Victimization of Children: A Life Course Perspective
    Project Period: 2006Spring 2009
    Award Amount: $527,424

Overview. The University of Massachusetts, Lowell is conducting an in-depth field-based study, using a life course perspective to examine the lives of CSEC victims, with a focus on adolescents. The study seeks to understand victims' perspectives and identify factors associated with CSEC, its maintenance, and escalation, including factors impeding victims from freeing themselves from such exploitation.

Highlights. The grantee has finalized sampling and recruitment plans for the focus groups and interviews. It has conducted all scheduled focus groups and completed approximately 75% of the interviews. The grantee will soon begin data analysis and is on schedule to submit its final report in spring 2009.

  • National Study of Internet-Facilitated Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Criminal Justice System
    Project Period: 2006–December 2009
    Award Amount: $264,332

Overview. The University of New Hampshire is conducting a study of how the Internet facilitates present and future commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth. The study will collect data from U.S. law enforcement agencies regarding the numbers and characteristics of Internet-facilitated CSEC cases to attain a comprehensive view of how perpetrators use Internet technology to victimize children and youth through commercial sexual exploitation.

Highlights. The grantee has conducted the scheduled mail survey and sent follow-up letters to nonrespondents. Following tests of the telephone interview design, it has completed data collection through telephone interviews. The grantee has begun data analysis and is on schedule to submit its final report by December 2008.

  • Multi-Prong Approaches to Strengthening Internet Child Safety
    Project Period: 2006–Spring 2010
    Award Amount: $249,795 (and supplemental award of $996,540 in 2007)

Overview. The Justice Research Institute is conducting this research project, which is intended to reduce online sexual victimization of children and adolescents and to advance the empirical research needed to combat such victimization and enhance Internet safety strategies. A secondary goal is to study the evolution and impact of adult and child pornography on Internet sexual offenders.

These goals will be attained by:

  1. conducting in-depth structured interviews of a large, diverse sample of Internet sexual offenders.
  2. examining the age spectrum of exposure to, use of, and technical familiarity with Internet pornography in high school students, college students, and offenders.
  3. reviewing the efficacy of child protection software with recommendations for their next generation.

Highlights. The grantee has administered surveys to school-aged children, college students, and parents to measure their levels of Internet usage, and how they are using the Internet (i.e., frequency of use, websites visited, Internet protection software used, etc.). Two working group meetings have been held in which substantive feedback was provided on the Internet offender survey instrument, which the grantee is continuing to fine-tune. The grantee continues to work with the Bureau of Prisons to gain access to interview federally-imprisoned sex offenders.


Resource Guide: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children"Resource Guide: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children," a resource developed by the OJP Diagnostic Center, identifies resources and related publications for addressing issues related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. It serves as a starting point for exploring how science and data can be used to inform policy decisions and support the creation of strategies to address CSEC at the state, local and tribal levels.


"Effects of Federal Legislation on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children" reports on the results of a study funded by OJJDP to examine the effects of the Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 on the prosecution of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) cases. The bulletin discusses how current laws addressing CSEC are enforced, describes key features of successful CSEC prosecutions, and provides recommendations for strengthening prosecutions.