As we address the demand side of domestic minor sex trafficking, it is important to discuss how prevalent pornography, and specifically child pornography, is within today’s culture. This issue has been highlighted in recent news, as high profile celebrities and spokesmen have been arrested and sentenced for possession of child pornography. However, what few may realize is that within the pornography industry, child pornography makes up $3 billion of the total global sales annually, with the majority of the child pornography being produced, distributed, and possessed in the United States.
Child pornography is not only an exploitation of children, but also clearly falls within the definition of sex trafficking. The typical age of a child that is exploited through pornography is between six and 12 years old; however in recent years there has been a steep increase in exploited children even as young as infants. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a 2005 report stated that of the offenders arrested for child pornography possession throughout the year, 83% had images of children ages six to 12, 39% had images of children ages three to five, and 19% had images of children under the age of three.
As the pornography industry grows with new technologies, the number of sexually exploited child images also increases. As the use of web cameras and smart phones have become a norm, it has made it easier to produce, access, and distribute these images. Furthermore, anyone can have access to large storage devices, which allows offenders to collect thousands of photographs of a child.
According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in October of 2003, they reviewed more than 20,000 images of child pornography each week. Further, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Victim Identification program has reviewed over 90 million photographs and videos since 2002, when the program began. 22 million of those suspected child sexual abuses images were in 2013 alone.
Child pornography and the solicitation of sex from children often go hand in hand, and it is important to address both within the same conversation. There have been many men who have spoken out against pornography, highlighting the dangers and harm that it causes to the viewer and their relationships. However, as advocates for victims of trafficking, one must also view the child, woman, or man in the image as a likely victim of exploitation.
If you suspect someone is a victim of sex trafficking, call the local law enforcement. You can also contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text ‘INFO’ or ‘HELP’ to ‘BeFree’ (233733).
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