The AVERAGE age a child is first exploited through prostitution is 13 years old.
This shocking number is not a coincidence or evidence that today’s youth are more delinquent than the generations before them. Rather, it reveals the fact that pimps are using more manipulative tactics to recruit younger girls.
To understand why the average age of entry is so young, we must understand the strategy used by pimps. When many people think of sex trafficking, they think of kidnapped children enslaved in a foreign brothel. However, the commercial sexual exploitation of minors occurs in every corner in the U.S. While kidnapping for the purpose of sex trafficking does occur in America, a common tactic used by pimps is trauma bonding. According to Patrick J. Carnes, Ph.D., trauma bonding is defined as the “Dysfunctional attachments that occur in the presence of danger, shame or exploitation.” Pimps often implement this strategy by initially playing the role of a girl’s boyfriend. He takes her out to nice places and showers her with gifts in an effort to gain her trust. As the relationship continues, the pimp starts to exert more power over the girl, engaging in increasingly rough sexual activity, and even beating her. Eventually, the pimp convinces the girl that they are low on money. Isolated from her friends and family, she often has no choice but to comply with the pimp’s demands to sell her body for sex. The trauma bonding process brainwashes the victim into believing that she is choosing to engage in this lifestyle, despite the fact that every step was calculated by the pimp to manipulate her.
According to Shared Hope International’s “National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking,” 70% of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) victims have experienced physical or sexual abuse prior to being trafficked. In addition, the risk of being trafficked increases exponentially for children who run away from broken homes or abuse. In fact, research indicates that 1 in 3 girls will be trafficked within 48 hours of running away. Girls who have an absent father figure may also be more likely to be targeted for the commercial sex trade. Many DMST victims have one or both parents in jail or on drugs. Though these factors may increase the risk for a girl to be targeted for exploitation in the commercial sex industry, a girl’s most vulnerable point is simply her age. Young girls are often more susceptible to rely on the perceived love and security that a pimp initially offers. Additionally, youth brings a lack of life experience, a lack of social support, an increased difficulty to meet financial needs for survival and fewer coping mechanisms.
In such a lucrative industry, utilizing minors to meet the demand for paid sex is a sly business move – one that turns a huge profit for pimps. Thus, in an industry driven by an ever growing demand, the young and impressionable provide the most convenient and profitable supply for pimps. Shared Hope International is committed to ending domestic minor sex trafficking and activating a nation that protects, rather than purchases, our children.