Myths and facts

Below are myths and facts about commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. 

MYTH: Sex trafficking only happens overseas to young girls.

FACT: Commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking occur every day in the United States. Its victims - male and female - live in cities and small towns across America.

MYTH: Minors who are trafficked are recognized as victims of crime and abuse.

FACT: Sexual exploitation and sex trafficking are forms of child abuse, but the children and adolescents who are victims can still be arrested for prostitution, detained or incarcerated, and subject to permanent records as offenders in most states.

Many states, including Minnesota, have a "safe harbor" law that treats trafficked boys and girls up to age 18 as victims who need services rather than criminals. Minnesota was also the first state in the U.S. to fund statewide training on sex trafficking and protocol development. 

This year, the legislature voted to provide safe harbor services to anyone up to age 24 as well as additional funding. However, prostitution is considered a crime at age 18, and jurisdictions have latitude in how its applied. 

MYTH: People who buy sex with minors or engage in the sale of sex with minors are caught and punished.

FACT: Despite laws in every state that enable the prosecution of these individuals and the work of prosecutors and law enforcement in many jurisdictions, people who sexually exploit children and adolescents have largely escaped accountability.

Statewide, the number of charges and convictions for sex trafficking has dramatically increased from 2011 to 2013.

MYTH: It is easy for professionals who interact with minors to recognize victims, survivors, and youth at risk of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.

FACT: Many teachers, doctors and nurses, child welfare workers and other individuals who interact with youth are unaware that commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors occur in their communities or lack the knowledge or training to identify and respond to them.

MYTH: Help is readily available for victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.

FACT: There are too few services to meet current needs. The services that do exist are unevenly distributed geographically, lack adequate resources, and vary in their ability to provide specialized care.

Through safe harbor, some services are available for victims up to age 24 in the state of Minnesota. 

Source: Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of the National Academies, Ramsey County Attorney's Office, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.