Effects of Federal Legislation on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

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As many as 300,000 children become victims of commercial sexual exploitation every year in the United States, according to a new study by the Urban Institute for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The report looks at the effect of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act on the prosecution of cases of  commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). The act was passed in an attempt to stop sex trafficking of children, and makes human trafficking a federal offense.

The Institute’s study included a review of literature and interviews of federal prosecutors. The interviews showed that the prosecutors’ research methods needed to be improved, the report states.

Observations from meetings with CSEC service providers and advocates showed that being witnesses can be overwhelming for children, and that investigation processes can often make victims feel criminalized and therefore hesitant to testify.

CSEC investigations and suspects have increased since the legislation was passed, with most of the growth attributed to an increase in child pornography suspects.

The study also found that the mean prison sentence for CSEC offenses increased from 53 months in 1999 to 80 months in 2004, four years after trafficking law was enacted.

Free, 12 pages. www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/228631.pdf.