Primary Sources: Proof That Trafficked Girls Are Victims Under the Law

A young woman looks frightened.

“Pimp Control and Violence: Domestic Sex Trafficking of Chicago Women and Girls” (abstract), Women and Criminal Justice, Vol. 20, No. 1 & 2, January 2010.

What it's about: Researchers interviewed 71 Chicago girls and young women (ages 16-25) who had been recruited into prostitution. The study aimed to find out how much violence and coercion female victims of sex trafficking experience, and how those experiences change over time.

Why read it: A federal law criminalizing domestic sex trafficking has been on the books for more than a decade. But state laws, many local police departments and judges, and even many social service providers continue to view—and treat—prostituted girls and women as criminals. The authors of this study set out to make the case that many prostitutes meet the federal definition of sex trafficking victims: experiencing force, fraud or coercion or being younger than 18.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: On average, victims in the study entered prostitution at around age 16.The majority had experienced various levels of violence and coercion. In most cases, pimps exerted more control over time, making it harder and harder for the girls and young women to leave. Given these findings, the authors say, most of the girls and young women in the study are sex trafficking victims according to federal law. The authors recommend training local law enforcement in the provisions of Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 so that victims receive services, including safe shelter, rather than being locked up as criminals.

Additional references: The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 governs federal efforts to prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute traffickers. The Administration for Children and Families’ Campaign to Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking supports resources including the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (1-888-3737-888).

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or ACF. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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