Social forces and dating

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Some sources will refer to "child sex trafficking" or "sex trafficking of minors," while others will refer to "domestic minor sex trafficking," "commercial sexual exploitation of children," or other terms.

There also is disagreement about what age a person needs to be considered a victim; some observers say victims must be under 18, while others include young people up to age 22 in their definitions (Countryman-Roswurm & Bolin). For simplicity and consistency, the term "youth sex trafficking" is used in this article.) Perhaps the biggest barrier to clarity about the scope of youth sex trafficking in the United States is that victims are often misidentified or not identified at all by professionals who work with youths.

As these examples illustrate, there are many misperceptions about the nature of youth sex trafficking and, unfortunately, social workers are not immune to these misperceptions.

Unless social workers recognize that youth sex trafficking affects youths from all backgrounds in all areas, they may be missing important opportunities to identify victims and help survivors get the help they need.

Social workers are often also advised to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 888-373-7888.

But she knows her help can only go so far when the public associates trafficking with movies like that portray traffickers as strange men who snatch young people away and force them into sexual slavery in foreign countries.

"Social workers need to realize how important a role they play in all of this," says Eliza Reock, director of programs for Shared Hope International, an antitrafficking organization based in Vancouver, WA.

"Social workers are in such a critical place to start identifying these [victims]." A Knowledge Gap Under federal law, sex trafficking involves the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person to perform commercial sex acts induced by force, fraud, or coercion (US Department of Health & Human Services, 2012, August 8).

In her role as human trafficking program manager for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Stacy Sloan, MSW, works to raise awareness of youth sex trafficking across the state.

But that work is often stymied by the belief that trafficking is only an issue in big cities like Chicago.

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