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     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 4,500 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. In FY18, ICAC task force programs conducted more than 71,200 investigations and 84,700 forensic exams. These efforts resulted in the arrests of more than 9,100 individuals. Additionally, the ICAC program trained over 46,500 law enforcement personnel, over 2,900 prosecutors, and more than 14,300 other professionals working in the ICAC field.

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

  • With OJJDP funding, the National Resource Center and Clearinghouse (NRCC), operated by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), is designed to help prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; find missing children; and provide training and technical assistance to victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them. NCMEC operates a 24-hour toll-free Missing Children's Hotline and a CyberTipline. NCMEC's CyberTipline is the nation's centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children. The public and electronic service providers can make reports of suspected online enticement of children for sexual acts, extra-familial child sexual molestation, child pornography, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, unsolicited obscene materials sent to a child, misleading domain names, and misleading words or digital images on the internet. Of the more than 23,500 endangered runaways reported to NCMEC in 2018, one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

  • OJJDP's FY 2018 National AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program (AATTAP) is a partnership of law enforcement, broadcasters and media, transportation agencies, emergency management agencies, telecommunications/call centers, other public safety agencies, and child protection organizations and professionals dedicated to recovering endangered missing and abducted children. The AATTAP serves to increase the nation's capacity to respond to incidents of endangered missing and abducted children. This program offers a wide variety of training opportunities to improve the investigative response of local, regional, state, and tribal law enforcement to high risk victims, children in crisis and the commercial sexual exploitation of youth.


  • OJJDP's Specialized Services and Mentoring for Child and Youth Victims of Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation supports organizations that provide mentoring services for children and youth who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic sex trafficking. The goal of this initiative is to provide mentoring and supportive services for children and youth who are victims of sexual exploitation and domestic sex trafficking, boys who often go unidentified as victims of trafficking, and girls who are vulnerable to trafficking and who are most likely to end up in the juvenile justice system. Training and technical assistance is provided to project sites by Youth Collaboratory. With OJJDP support, the Youth Collaboratory developed a toolkit for youth service providers to build their understanding of the commercial sexual exploitation of child.

  • 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 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. This program is designed to improve the juvenile justice and dependency systems' response to child abuse, neglect, commercial sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking of minors and related cases. The program encourages and assists collaborative efforts among dependency and delinquency court systems to better protect and serve victims of child sexual exploitation and domestic child sex trafficking.

  • If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline
    https://humantraffickinghotline.org/
    Call 1-88-373-788 ( TTY: 711)
    Text 233733

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

OJJDP Materials:

OJJDP's online Model Programs Guide provides information about programs to help children exposed to violence and victimization. The guide also includes reviews of research literature on the commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of children and child labor trafficking.

Access a comprehensive list of services for trafficking survivors on the OJJDP website.

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.

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.