Building Solutions. Supporting Communities. Advancing Justice.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Working for Youth Justice and Safety
Multimedia Use Home
skip navigationAbout OJJDPE-NewsOJJDP resources organized topicallyFundingProgramsprograms Program Search Training and Technical Assistance Model Programs Guide OJJDP In Focus Programs and Initiatives State representatives and organizations that administer OJJDP programsPublicationsOJJDP Research and StatisticsOJJDP conferences, teleconferences, and juvenile justice-related eventsToolsHome

     Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC): This term refers to a range of crimes and activities involving the sexual abuse or exploitation of a child for the financial benefit of any person or in exchange for anything of value (including monetary and non-monetary benefits) given or received by any person. Examples of crimes and acts that constitute CSEC include:

  • child sex trafficking/the prostitution of children;
  • child sex tourism involving commercial sexual activity;
  • the commercial production of child pornography; and
  • the online transmission of live video of a child engaged in sexual activity in exchange for anything of value.

CSEC also includes situations where a child, whether or not at the direction of any other person, engages in sexual activity in exchange for anything of value, which includes non-monetary things such as food, shelter, drugs, or protection from any person.

Depending on the specific circumstances, CSEC may also occur in the context of internet-based marriage brokering, early marriage, and children performing in sexual venues.

Note: CSEC is not legally defined by federal statute or case law. However, several federal criminal provisions can be applied to conduct that falls within this definition of CSEC, including 18 U.S.C. 1591, 2251, and 2423(c).

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 impacted by sexual trauma or exploitation is more than a criminal justice issue, it is a societal issue. Despite current efforts, the threat of child sexual exploitation remains very real, and can occur in the home, on the street, over the Internet, in the U.S., or overseas.

The Department of Justice's National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, first published in 2010 and updated in 2016, identified innovative ways in which the federal government and its partners can address child exploitation and reaffirms the Department's and its partners' unwavering commitment to ensuring that all children in America are able to reach their potential in a nation that protects them from violence and abuse.

Established in 1998, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program (ICAC program) helps state and local law enforcement agencies develop effective responses to technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and Internet crimes against children. This assistance encompasses forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, victim services, and community education. The ICAC program is a national network of 61 coordinated task forces representing more than 3,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. These agencies are engaged in both proactive and reactive investigations, forensic investigations, and criminal prosecutions. In addition to funding the task forces, OJJDP funds several training and technical assistance providers in investigative techniques, peer-to-peer investigations, and forensic examinations.

Following are examples of other OJJDP-funded efforts to combat the sexual exploitation of children:

  • With OJJDP funding, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Fox Valley Technical College provide services through the AMBER Alert Program. The Office of Justice Programs' Assistant Attorney General serves as the National AMBER Alert Coordinator. Services provided include training of law enforcement personnel, secondary distribution of AMBER Alerts, and development of resources specifically for Indian Country where practitioners who live and work in tribal communities and understand the unique dynamics of protecting children in tribal areas design and deliver programs.

  • OJJDP's Mentoring Child Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Initiative supports organizations that respond to the needs of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic sex trafficking. This initiative has two components: project sites and training and technical assistance. Project sites work to develop or enhance their mentoring capacity, facilitate outreach efforts, and increase the availability of direct services for child victims (17 years old or younger) of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic sex trafficking. Currently, project sites are located in Boston, MA, Milwaukee, WI, Miami, FL, Wichita, KS, El Paso, TX and Oakland, CA. Training and technical assistance is provided to project sites by the Mid-Atlantic Network of Youth and Family Services (MANY).

  • The OJJDP Missing and Exploited Children Training and Technical Assistance Program provides multi-disciplinary training and technical assistance to prosecutors, state and local law enforcement and child protection personnel, medical providers, and other child-serving professionals to strengthen multidisciplinary responses to and improve prosecution of child victimization cases. The first two curriculums under development are "Multi-Disciplinary Team Training for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children" and "Child Abuse and Exploitation Investigation."

  • The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has created the National Judicial Institute on Domestic Child Sex Trafficking and a curriculum to help judicial officers better understand the dynamics of domestic child sex trafficking, the applicable laws and legal considerations involving trafficking victims, and how to identify children at risk of or being trafficked and how to connect them to appropriate services.

  • The Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States 2013-2017 lays out a five-year plan to further strengthen coordination, collaboration, and capacity across governmental and nongovernmental entities that support victims of human trafficking. OJJDP is a strong supporter and partner in this plan.

  • OJJDP's National Training and Technical Assistance Center supports the juvenile justice field through webinars and the dissemination of information on various topics related to child sex trafficking and child exploitation.

  • The CyberTipline which receives leads and tips regarding suspected incidents of sexual exploitation committed against children (since its inception in 1998, the Center has received more than 6.9 million reports).
Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States
This OJJDP-sponsored report examines current approaches to addressing commercial sexual exploitation of children, identifies causes and consequences for both victims and offenders, and highlights recommendations to prevent, identify, and respond to these crimes.

Full Report, 2013

Report Infographic (PDF), 2014

A Guide for the Health Care Sector, 2014

A Guide for the Legal Sector, 2014

A Guide for Providers of Victim and Support Services, 2014

Myths and Facts, 2013

Additional Resources

Report Infographic


In addition, OJJDP supports the following research projects on the commercial sexual exploitation of children:

  • The Urban Institute's study of New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth engaging in survival sex.
    • Learn more about this study by accessing the February 2015 Urban Institute report: Surviving the Streets of New York: Experiences of LGBTQ Youth, YMSM, and YWSW Engaged in Survival Sex, Urban Institute. Full Report
  • The Center for Court Innovation's examination of commercial sexual exploitation victims in six sites (Atlantic City, NJ; Bay Area, CA; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Las Vegas, NV; and Miami, FL). Learn more about the study and access the resulting site reports.
  • The Development Services Group, Inc.'s assessment of the impact of Safe Harbor legislation in terms of increasing service delivery to victims.
  • The Johns Hopkins University's assessments of the impact of Safe Harbor legislation in terms of decreasing arrests for juvenile prostitution.
  • Impact Justice is conducting interdisciplinary analyses describing disparities in the pathways into incarceration for Lesbian, Bisexual, Questioning, Gender Nonconforming and Transgender (LBQ/GNCT) girls incarcerated for "prostitution."

OJJDP Materials:

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children/Sex Trafficking Literature Review, OJJDP-Sponsored, August 2014

Effects of Federal Legislation on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, OJJDP-Produced, July 2010

Measurement and Analysis of Child Pornography Trafficking on P2P Networks, Final Technical Report, OJJDP-Sponsored, September 2014

Missing Children, State Care, and Child Sex Trafficking: Engaging the Judiciary in Building a Collaborative Response, OJJDP-Sponsored, June 2015

Youth Involvement in the Sex Trade: A National Study, OJJDP-Sponsored, March 2016

Additional Websites:

AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program
The mission of the AMBER Alert program is to safely recover missing, endangered, or abducted children through the coordinated efforts of law enforcement, media, transportation, and other partners by using training and technology to enhance response capacities and capabilities and increase public participation.

ICAC Task Force Training
The ICAC Task Force was created to help Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative responses to offenders who use the Internet, online communication systems, or computer technology to sexually exploit children. The Program is funded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children opened in 1984 to serve as the nation's clearinghouse on issues related to missing and sexually exploited children. Today NCMEC is authorized by Congress to perform 22 programs and services to assist law enforcement, families and the professionals who serve them.

OVC Online Directory of Crime Victim Services
OVC Online Directory of Crime Victim Services Search the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) Online Directory of Crime Victim Services to locate nonemergency crime victim service agencies provided by not-for-profit programs and public agencies. Child Abduction, child physical or sexual abuse, and human trafficking are among the types of victimization services included in the Directory.

Project Safe Childhood
The Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood initiative was launched in May 2006 to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

U.S. Department of Justice: Human Trafficking
The Department of Justice's Human Trafficking online resource outlines the department's efforts to combat human trafficking. The section includes the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking report that describes plans to enhance coordination within the department to stop human trafficking.