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The Problem


People usually think of sex trafficking as something that happens in 3rd world countries. Something foreign and distant. However, sex trafficking is happening every day in the US, even in the Seattle area. It is right in our back yard.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 defines the most severe forms of human trafficking as sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking occurs when a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident who has not attained 18 years of age is engaged in a commercial sex act. Commercial sex acts include erotic dancing/stripping, pornography, and prostitution.

“It is important to note that a person does not have to be “trafficked” over country or state borders in order to be a victim of trafficking – indeed “domestic” trafficking is the largest trafficking category.”[1]

PLEASE NOTE: Victims of DMST do not usually self-report; therefore the statistics listed below are based on the best collected evidence available.


The numerous estimates of juveniles involved in prostitution in the United States range from 100,000 to 3 million. The U.S. Department for Health and Human Services cites 300,000 as the number in the U.S. based on estimates of runaways who become involved in prostitution.[2] Prostitution is illegal for all parties involved- unfortunately, it is the only crime in which you can be labeled as a criminal and a victim.

Pimps target girls or women who seem naive, lonely, homeless, and rebellious. At first, the attention and feigned affection from the pimp convinces her to “be his woman.” Pimps ultimately keep prostituted women in virtual captivity by verbal abuse – making a woman feel that she is utterly worthless: a toilet, a piece of trash; and by physical coercion – beatings and the threat of torture. Eighty to ninety-five percent of all prostitution is pimp-controlled.[3]

The average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years.[4]

In a study by Farley in 1998[5], 73% of DMST victims reported having experienced physical assault in prostitution; 72% were currently or formerly homeless, 62% reported having been raped in prostitution, and 92% stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately.

65% – 95% of sex-trafficking victims were sexually abused as a child.[6]

75% of sex-trafficking victims are frequent drug users and 26% are frequent users of alcohol.[7]

69% of sex trafficking victims in the United States suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.[8]

When asked if they would leave the “prostitution business” if they had a safe place to go, 87% said yes.[9]

48% of sex-trafficking victims stated that they needed individual counseling.[10]

28% of sex-trafficking victims stated that they needed protection from a pimp.[11]

PLEASE NOTE: Most DMST victims will not state that they need protection from a pimp, as they “believe” that they are in love with their pimp, and that their pimp loves them as well.


In 2009 in the South Seattle Area, more than 81 DMST victims were involved with arrests for sex trafficking. Unfortunately, this is the only crime in which one can be labeled as both victim and offender.

In a 2008 study by Debra Boyer[12], service providers reported increased incidents of youths ages 13 and 14 involved in prostitution and reported an increase in gang-affiliated prostitution.

Service providers also reported an increase in prostitution-related violence including pimp kidnappings.[13]

In 2008 a study estimated that 300-500 youth are involved in DMST in the Seattle/King County area[14]; however, local law enforcement anecdotally saw an explosion of young girls involved in the life starting in 2009 after this was published. So the number is more likely as high as 1,000.

The average age of a traffic victim in the US is 11-14.[15]

A minor involved in trafficking has a lifespan of 7-10 years.[16]

“Youth under the age of 18 involved in prostitution should be considered victims. Arrest and conviction of youth under the age of 18 for prostitution or loitering contradicts the status extended to minors under the United Nations protocols on human trafficking, the United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and the Washington State laws on trafficking and commercial sexual abuse of minors.”[17]

[1] D. Boyer. (2008) “Who Pays the Price? Assessment of Prostitution in Seattle”; 1-44; pg. 9
[2] Boyer, 2008
[3] M. Farley, Isin Baral, Merab Kiremire, Ufuk Sezgin, “Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” (1998) Feminism & Psychology 8 (4): 405-426
[4] M.H. Silbert and A.M. Pines, 1982, “Victimization of street prostitutes, Victimology: An International Journal, 7: 122-133
[5] Farley, 1998
[6] Farley, 1998
[7] Farley, 1998
[8] Farley, 1998
[9] Farley, 1998
[10] Farley, 1998
[11] Farley, 1998
[12] Boyer, 2008
[13] Boyer, 2008
[14] Boyer, 2008
[15] Federal Bureau of Investigation. Congressional Testimony by Chris Swecker, Criminal Investigative Division. (7 June 2005).
[16] Information adapted from
[17] Boyer, 2008, pg. 33