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Commercial Exploitation of Children & Trafficking – What’s the Difference?
September 20, 2018

Commercial sexual exploitation of children and trafficking are different offenses. Recognizing the difference can be critical to ensuring child victims get the help they need. This week, we have a guest post by attorney, Peter Janci, sharing his expertise on the subject.

According to a 2012 United Nations study, a third of human trafficking victims are children, with many of these young victims being sexually exploited for money.

Even when young people may suspect that they are being trafficked or exploited, the tactics used by their older and more sophisticated traffickers and abusers are often designed to make them doubt their rights and the capability of the state to protect them – so they remain in servitude and suffering.

Although the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and the trafficking of children are different offenses, they are very closely related as the following definitions, adapted from those on the website:, make clear:

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)

“An act of sexually abusing a child for economic gains…A form of coercion and violence against children (amounting) to forced labor and a contemporary form of slavery…CSEC can take various forms like: prostitution of children; child pornography; child sex tourism; and other forms of transactional sex.

“CSEC also potentially includes arranged marriages involving children under the age of 18 years, where the child has not freely consented to marriage and where the child is sexually abused.”

Trafficking of Children

“An act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, and harboring a child for the purpose of exploitation. Trafficking of children is a form of human trafficking, and is carried out mainly for commercial sexual exploitation of children. It can take various forms. For example, forcing a child into prostitution is a form of sexual activity or child pornography, and can be classified as trafficking.”

In a nutshell, child trafficking is a process of preparing children for abuse (not necessarily, but commonly sexual in nature). CSEC is the sexual abuse itself in all its forms.

Where children and young people are often confused is with recognizing the quality of a relationship with an adult. So-called ‘feigned romantic interest’ is a recognized tactic whereby child traffickers pretend that they care for and are in love with a young person in order to transport them into situations where they are separated from their families and at risk of exploitation. This could be anything from a party at a private flat to a strip club or even a brothel.

It is important for any young person who has been led into any type of commercial sexual activity, from stripping to sexual intercourse, to know that they are not to blame and that they are victims of a crime. They should also know that even if they feel they have experienced no violence or deception, they have been exploited and trafficked and that help is there for them.

A classic example of trafficking and CSEC is detailed in the case of Monica (real name withheld). Living in chaotic circumstances, Monica became lonely and starved of attention. When she was 13, she met a man who told her he was 18 and began to groom her by pretending to have a romantic interest.

After a ‘honeymoon’ period, the man started taking her to parties and getting her involved with drugs, drink and sex. He also became abusive until one night, at a party, he took her upstairs, with a group of his friends, and made her ‘do things’ that she didn’t want to do. Fortunately, Monica’s mother involved the police and, with the help of a (counter) sexual exploitation project, Monica escaped.

The Importance of Coming Forward

The good news is that groundbreaking cases involving specialist child trafficking attorneys are finally bringing justice to victims so often ignored or let down by the legal system.

The challenge is that before a trafficking attorney, child pornography lawyer or other legal representative can get to work, the crime has to be exposed – and that means children and adults showing the courage to step forward.

Children who are being trafficked or exploited are often told to speak to a responsible adult but it is important for them to understand that they may need to be persistent. Although professionals have a duty to report any abuse, they may not always take the appropriate action.

Carly (real name withheld), had to speak to three different adults before her abusive father was eventually arrested. Only when she spoke to her school did the CPS become involved and her and her mother still had to fight to ensure he eventually received the jail term he deserved.

For those children who feel unable to speak to someone they know, the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline offers a confidential service. They took nearly 115,000 calls in 2017!

Adults who suspect a child is being abused can make a good faith report to the Police. They should first note down the details of their concerns including any boundary invasions they witness, any action or inaction on the part of a responsible adult and how that has affected the child.

Peter Janci, a Partner at Crew Janci LLP, is advocating for victims of sexual abuse and other crimes. He has represented more than one hundred victims of sexual abuse over nearly a decade. As an expert sexual harassment attorney, Peter strives to obtain exceptional results for his clients through zealous advocacy and creativity. He has helped obtain dozens of other significant settlements for other survivors of sexual abuse. He has been selected five times as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers Magazine.

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