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H.E.A.T. Watch – Stop Human Exploitation and Trafficking

Alameda County H.E.A.T. Watch Tip Line:
1-510-208-4959
Office of the District Attorney, Alameda County
Nancy E. O'Malley, District Attorney

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Reasons for the Growing Epidemic

Technology and the Internet

An increased reliance on the Internet has changed the nature and scope of human trafficking. As the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) moves off the streets and onto the Internet, the sophistication of the CSEC marketplace is enhanced.

  • In 2005, the US Census Bureau estimated that nationally, 24.5 million children (aged 10-17) use the internet
  • 1 in 5 (or about 5 million children) receive an online sexual solicitation or are approached for sex

Sex trafficking victims are often targeted and sold online. Using technology, traffickers can reach a far broader audience and sex purchasers have increased anonymity. There are countless adult escort sites on the Internet, filled with solicitation ads from CSEC victims. The internet increases the transitory nature of CSEC cases, making it more difficult for law enforcement to:

  • Locate victims and traffickers
  • Identify essential witnesses and evidence
  • Share important information and intelligence

As the crime has moved from the streets to the web, this has increased demand. Exploiters view sex trafficking as a profitable business.

Profitability

Human trafficking offers exploiters big money and little risk. Unlike narcotics or weapons, a human can be exploited more than once, making them a very valuable commodity.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “exploiters are making around 2.5 billion per year through sexual exploitation and forced labor.” [1]

Language

Language used to describe exploitation has perpetuated the myth that human trafficking is a victimless crime.

Terms like “prostitute” or "whore" give a false impression that victims choose to be exploited. Traffickers profit from these labels, which take blame and action away from the exploiter and place it on the victim.

Children are not prostitutes, they are sexually exploited minors.

The men who have sex with these minors are not 'Johns', they are child rapists.

People who sell other people for profit are not bosses, pimps or business men, they are exploiters and traffickers.

Challenging how we label victims and exploiters will help change how society views this crime.

Victimology of CSEC

Children that have been exploited often times do not identify themselves as victims. They believe their traffickers love them or that they deserve the exploitation they endure. For many victims, they do not know what real love looks like.

Psychological manipulation and domination creates trauma bonds from the victim to their exploiter. Many are unwilling to cooperate with law enforcement, and will not testify against their exploiters. Many CSEC youth have not had a stable upbringing or positive family.

Understanding CSEC victimology and being trauma informed is the key to effectively serving CSEC victims and prosecuting human trafficking cases.

[1] UNODC Fact Sheet on Human Trafficking (2010). https://www.unodc.org/documents/human-trafficking/UNVTF_fs_HT_EN.pdf