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Child Sex Trafficking

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Report Child Sex Trafficking to the CyberTipline!


Child sex trafficking is a form of child abuse that occurs when a child under 18 is advertised, solicited or exploited through a commercial sex act.  A commercial sex act is any sex act where something of value – such as money, food, drugs or a place to stay – is given to or received by any person for sexual activity.  

While any child can be targeted by a trafficker, research, data and survivor lived experience and expertise have revealed traffickers and buyers often target youth who lack strong support networks, have experienced violence in the past, are experiencing homelessness, or are marginalized by society.  When youth feel like they are not loved, supported in their identity and voice, or like they don’t belong they become ever more vulnerable to unsafe situations. Traffickers are masters of manipulation and prey upon vulnerabilities using psychological pressure, false promises actions of perceived love/support and intimidation to control and sexually exploit the child for their benefit.  The issue of child sex trafficking is complex.  Understanding the various forms of child sex trafficking and indicators can create opportunities for prevention, identification, and response.  Most importantly NCMEC embraces and encourages all efforts on this issue to be survivor-informed, child-centered, and trauma-informed. 

   Below are some examples of child sex trafficking:

Pimp-Controlled Trafficking

Child is trafficked by an unrelated individual, male or female, who often develops an intentional relationship with the child which is later used as leverage in the exploitation. 

Familial Trafficking

Child is trafficked by a relative or a person who is perceived by the child to be a family member such as individuals referred to as “auntie” or “uncle” but are not directly related to the child. 

Gang-Controlled Trafficking

Child is trafficked by a member of a gang or trafficked by the gang.  Gangs leverage their organizational structure, violence, and local, national, and international networks to instill fear and loyalty in the child victim.  

Buyer-Perpetrated Trafficking

Child is being trafficked but does not have a trafficker.  Instead, the buyer is directly exploiting the child’s vulnerabilities by offering money, food, and/or shelter in exchange for the sexual exploitation. 

Child sex trafficking can have devastating immediate and long-term consequences, including health impacts, psychological and physical trauma and even death.

Prevention, education and intervention are key to keeping children safer.  After making a missing child report to law enforcement we encourage law enforcement, parents, and legal guardians to report ALL missing children, especially children who have run away, to NCMEC by calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Next, if you are concerned about potential child sex trafficking activity or see situations including the indicators listed below please make a report to NCMEC’s CyberTipline or call 1-800-THE-LOST.

Risk Factors

Understanding adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as common risk factors helps identify opportunities to proactively intervene in an effort to prevent child sex trafficking. We’ve organized these factors into three categories. The list below is not exhaustive and many factors may be interconnected.

Societal & Environmental

  • Racism
  • Bullying
  • Lack of resources 
  • Involvement in child welfare or juvenile justice systems 
  • Gang activity 
  • Sexism 
  • Xenophobia



  • Inter-generational sexual abuse 
  • Lack of acceptance of gender identity or sexual orientation 
  • Housing instability/homelessness 
  • Immigration status 
  • Adverse childhood experiences: 
    • Domestic violence 
    • Household substance abuse 
    • Physical/emotional neglect or abuse
    • Sexual abuse 
    • Families with untreated mental health issues


  • History of trauma 
  • Lack of supportive family or adult figures
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Developmental or physical disability 
  • Substance misuse


Child Sex Trafficking Indicators

Child Sex Trafficking Vulnerabilities

By the Numbers

In 2022, NCMEC received more than

19,000 reports

 of possible child sex trafficking.

In 2022, NCMEC received over 400 reports of children who had run away and were likely victims of child sex trafficking, who were also being exploited through a gang.

Trends show us that when children run away frequently or for long periods of time, they tend to be running from an unsafe situation or to an unsafe situation. 

1 in 6

of the more than 25,000 cases of children reported missing to NCMEC in 2022 who had run away were likely victims of child sex trafficking. 

Of the children reported missing to NCMEC in 2022, who had run from the care of child welfare,


were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

What NCMEC is Doing About it

Providing a Specialized Response

NCMEC provides training, case management, clearinghouse resources, analytical support, family and peer support, and recovery services assistance on reports involving child sex trafficking, including:

Child Sex Trafficking Analytical Team

The Child Sex Trafficking Team resources are available to law enforcement only.  For assistance please reach out to 1-800-THE-LOST and ask to speak with a member of this team.

  • Reviews CyberTipline reports relating to child sex trafficking and makes them available to law enforcement for review and potential investigation;
  • Conducts link analysis to connect potential victims and/or offenders in multiple states or locations;
  • Provides specialized child sex trafficking analytical assistance to law enforcement to assist with the location and recovery of survivors;
  • Leverages open source data and specialized child sex trafficking technology tools to develop information and leads;
  • Analyzes phone numbers, names, email addresses, and/or publicly accessible online presence of possible traffickers to support law enforcement with the location and recovery of missing children exploited through child sex trafficking. 
  • Offers law enforcement free, specialized operational support.

Child Sex Trafficking Recovery Planning and Services

The Child Sex Trafficking Recovery Services Team (RST) provides specialized technical assistance and resources to child welfare workers who are working with missing children who are also victims of child sex trafficking. RST Resource Specialists provide knowledge and guidance on promising practices in trauma-informed response by making connections to statewide and local specialized child sex trafficking resources. RST Resource Specialists are prepared to assist in the development of intentional, trauma-informed, and victim-centered plans which have been proven to build rapport, increase opportunities for youth engagement, and reduce trauma responses. For more information, click here.

Family Advocacy & Support

NCMEC provides assistance and support to families impacted by child sex trafficking. Family Advocacy Specialists offer crisis intervention to families as well as local referrals to appropriate professionals for longer-term support. Families of exploited children often feel alone in their struggle and overwhelmed by the issues impacting their lives. NCMEC’s Team HOPE is a volunteer program that connects families to others who have experienced the crisis of a sexually exploited child. These trained volunteers offer peer support, coping skills, and compassion.

Prioritizing Survivor Leadership & Voice

In 2020, NCMEC launched the Child Sex Trafficking Survivor Expert Working Group to strengthen our existing efforts to prevent, identify, and serve survivors of child sex trafficking.  This incredible group worked alongside NCMEC to ensure our programs are informed by the lived experience and expertise of individuals who have survived this type of abuse. Each of the 15 members from across the nation was brought onto the NCMEC team as independent Expert Consultants representing diverse professional, experiential and cultural perspectives, and have refined, reshaped and reformed our current and future child sex trafficking efforts and programs.  

This work is just the beginning. The knowledge survivors of child sex trafficking provide is immeasurable, and NCMEC is committed to having a team of compensated lived experience experts to inform existing and future programs.  NCMEC’s child sex trafficking work  will continue to be informed by lived-experience experts from idea to innovation through to the launch.

Meet the NCMEC CST Expert Consultants


Dr. Alexandra (Sandi) Pierce
Applied Sociologist,
Othayonih Research

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Judge Robert Lung

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Marq Daniel Taylor
CEO and Founder,
The B.U.D.D.Y. House, Incorporated

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Chris Stark
Author and Consultant

Keisha Head
Activist, Advocate, and Motivational Speaker

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Josie Feemster

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Mercy Dizon
Advocate, Artist, Activist

Training Professionals on How to Identify & Respond to Child Sex Trafficking

NCMEC provides specialized child sex trafficking training on the identification and response to child sex trafficking that can be provided online or in-person. To learn more about our training options or request a specialized training click here.

Introduction to Child Sex Trafficking 

This training offers three modules and builds a comprehensive foundation on the issue of child sex trafficking for all audiences including law enforcement, child welfare, as well as concerned citizens. 

To access click here.

Training for Child Welfare Professionals on Child Sex Trafficking

Child Welfare professionals play an important role in the response to child sex trafficking and NCMEC is here to help! This training offers three micro-modules specifically designed to assist child welfare professionals working with children missing from care who are exploited through child sex trafficking. 


  • Child Sex Trafficking Legislation: What it Means for You
  • Reporting Children Missing from Care: How NCMEC Can Support You
  • NCMEC Resources for Child Welfare Professionals 

Click here to access our three new trainings

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Building Awareness about the Issue

NCMEC writes, contributes to, and publishes multiple publications pertaining to child sex trafficking. See them all here.

Child Sex Trafficking Overview
Child Sex Trafficking in America: A Guide for Parents & Guardians
Child Sex Trafficking in America: A Guide for Child Welfare Professionals
Missing Male Victims of Child Sex Trafficking
Missing Children, State Care, and Child Sex Trafficking: Engaging the Judiciary in Building a Collaborative Response