IN-DEPTH: Child Sex Traffickers Are Victimizing Children Across the US

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On any given day—in communities across the nation—thousands of children are being victimized by sex traffickers.

In 2022, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received 31.9 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation—up from 29.3 million reports in 2021 and 21.7 million in 2020. NCEMC is a national nonprofit founded in 1984 by John and Revé Walsh, whose son Adam, 6, was abducted from a department store in Florida in 1981. The boy was later found murdered.

Many are unaware that child sex trafficking is a growing problem in the United States, regarding it as an issue occurring in other countries. But the reality is that this problem happens every day—close to home—in big cities, small towns, and rural areas in every state.

And it could be happening right next door.

Children at Risk

Child sex trafficking is the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act,” according to federal law.

“No child is immune to becoming a victim of child sex trafficking, regardless of the child’s race, age, socioeconomic status, or location, and every child involved in this form of commercial sexual exploitation is a victim.”

The majority of missing child reports involve children who run away from home, putting them at a high risk of falling prey to sex traffickers, Staca Shehan, vice president of analytical services at NCEMC, told The Epoch Times in an interview.

Last year, there were 359,094 entries for missing children entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC). In 2021, there were 337,195 total entries. The number of entries represents the number of reports, meaning a child who runs away multiple times in that year could be recorded multiple times.

In 2022, NCEMC assisted law enforcement, families, and child welfare with 27,644 missing children cases.

One in six runaways who were reported missing were likely victims of child sex trafficking, according to data collected by the organization.

By Jana J. Pruet

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