All youth are vulnerable to a person who promises to meet their emotional and physical needs. This is especially true of runaway youth, those who have been previously sexually abused, those with disabilities (mental health, cognitive, learning), and those experiencing disruption at home (substance abuse, domestic violence, loss of a parent).
A trafficker/pimp targets and lures vulnerable youth into the commercial sex industry using psychological manipulation to make them to believe he loves and cares for their well-being. After establishing trust and allegiance, the pimp uses physical control such as threats, violence, or drug addiction to make the youth feel trapped and powerless. This “trauma bond” is difficult to break and ensures the youth will remain loyal even in the face of severe victimization.
Red flags that may indicate a youth is CSEC-involved include:
- History of running away from home or a program or current status as a runaway
- Frequently truant from school
- Access to unaccounted-for goods, such as cell phones, beauty products, jewelry, and clothing
- Tattoos, scars, or other physical brandings the youth is reluctant to explain
- Visible signs of abuse (e.g., cigarette burns on body but not face)
- New "friends" who are older teens or adults
- Involved with a male who is significantly older and/or gang involved
- Behaviors consistent with PTSD
- Repeated sexually transmitted infections and/or pregnancies