Due to its clandestine nature and the lack of uniform and disaggregated data, making accurate calculations on the scale of commercial sexual exploitation of children can be difficult and misleading. These are some related statistics:
  • Globally, profits obtained from the use of forced labor are estimated at $150 billion per year; about $99 billion from commercial sexual exploitation. Source: “Profits and Poverty: The economics of forced labour,” International Labour Organization, 2014
  • The most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls.
  • Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa). Source: A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) February 2009
United States
Commercial sexual exploitation is a term that covers all people younger than 18 years old whose sexual abuse is subject to a commercial transaction. Three categories of children who are commercially sexually exploited are described here. The term child includes both pre-pubescent and pubescent children.
  • Commercial sexual exploitation of children includes the population of pre-pubescent children who are raped and whose abuse is then captured in a photograph or video and sold. This is called “child abuse imagery.” Children as young as infants are subject to this abuse.
  • In 2014 the National Center on Missing Exploited Children received 1.1 million reports of a sexual offenses against children including apparent child sexual abuse images, online enticement, sex trafficking and child molestation. Source:
  • In addition to the sale of abusive images, pre-pubescent children are are also sold for commercial sexual abuse, by family members, acquaintances or caretakers.
  • There are no statistics depicting the size of this population, except in 2005 researchers found there to have been 170 arrests nationally for these crimes. Source: “Sex Trafficking Cases Involving Minors,” Kimberly, J. Mitchell, David Finkelhor and Janis Wolak. University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center , Nov. 2013
  • Children who have reached puberty, starting as young as 12 or 13 years old, are incorporated into the adult sex industry. There is no universal number about how many of these children there are in the United States. Here are some local statistics.
  • In 2011, 1,000 minors under the age of 18 were arrested for prostitution and commercialized vice in 2011. 76% were female and 9% were under the age of 15. Puzzanchera, C., Juvenile Arrests 2011, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 2013.
  • The U.S. TIP report from 2014 has data showing that 136 males and 443 females under 18 were arrested for prostitution or commercialized vice by state and local authorities in 2012.
  • 1 in 6 runaways reporting missing to NCMEC in 2014 were also likely sex trafficking victims. That is up from 1 in 7 in 2013. 68% of these likely sex trafficking victims were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran.
  • About 25% of the youth in a random sample who were surveyed at Covenant House (a shelter for street youth) in New York experienced some form of trafficking victimization or had engaged in “survival sex.” (the trading of sex for something of value).
    Source: “Homelessness, Survival Sex and Human Trafficking: As Experienced by the Youth of Covenant House New York”, Covenant House, May 2013.
  • In 2015 the Mayor’s Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking identified 118 victims of child sex trafficking in San Francisco. Source: “Mayor’s Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking, Human Trafficking Report in San Francisco, October 2016.
  • In Ohio, it was estimated that more than 1,000 Ohio children are sex trafficked each year. In addition, 3,000 Ohio children are at risk of becoming victims. Source: “Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission Research and Analysis Sub-Committee Report on the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in Ohio to Attorney General Richard Cordray” 2010.
  • Almost 4,000 children in New York City were found to be sexually exploited, 50% were boys. Source: Ric Curtis, et al., “The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in New York City,” The Center for Court Innovation, New York City, 2008
  • 45% of child commercial sexual exploitation victims in New York City were exploited in hotels.
    Source: Ric Curtis, et al., “The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in New York City”,The Center for Court Innovation, New York City, 2008