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The Issue

What is commercial sexual exploitation?

“Commercial Sexual Exploitation” is a term that is used to encompass those who are exploited in the sex trade and those who meet the legal definition of trafficking. It can include street-based prostitution, escorting services, survival sex and more.

We know that for many survivors and victims, the line can be blurry when it comes to meeting the official legal definitions of trafficking. This is why we choose to target the wider umbrella of commercial sexual exploitation.

By the numbers

54% experience PTSD

In a 2012 study, survivors of sex trafficking ages 14 – 60 reported experiencing numerous mental and psychological conditions.

88% of survivors experience depression

Almost 50% of sex buyers buy trafficked sex

A 2008 study in Chicago on sex buyers found that nearly half have paid for sex with women they knew to be under the control of a pimp or trafficker.

50% of Chicago escorts reported forced sex

Research done in Chicago found indoor prostitution is not “safe.” Some types of violence were even higher in indoor prostitution than street prostitution.

Over 90% of trafficking survivors reported serious violence

Among 107 survivors of trafficking ages 14 – 60 from eleven major U.S. cities, 92.2% reported being the victim of at least one of 12 forms of physical violence such as being threatened with a weapon, shot, strangled, burned, kicked, punched, beaten, stabbed, raped or penetrated with a foreign object.

Psychological & economic coercion are the primary ways pimps and traffickers control victims

A 2016 study in San Diego County showed that pimps and traffickers used psychological coercion, such as social and emotional isolation, degradation, humiliation, name-calling, and induced emotional exhaustion to control victims.

We couldn’t stand by

Knowing all this information, we knew we had to take action. With more exploitation happening online and away from the traditional intervention points, our work focused on reaching victims where they were being exploited: online.