Police and domestic sex trafficking of youth: What teens tell us that can aid prevention and interdiction

Year Published: 2015

Author: Linda M. Williams, Ph.D.

Source: Journal of Crime and Justice

Juveniles are more likely to come into contact with the criminal or juvenile justice systems in the U.S. as victims than as offenders. Yet, except in the case of child victims of sexual abuse at hands of a family member, juveniles as victims still receive little attention in the criminal justice literature. And, for the most part, the actors in the justice system in the U.S. have not been given the skills, tools, and resources to effectively deal with juveniles, especially teenaged youth, as victims. Furthermore, policing of domestic sex trafficking of youth has focused on police response at later stages of sex trafficking (when such a crime is clearly identified) and the role of the police in coordinated response teams and building cases against the perpetrators including ‘pimps.’ This article offers evidence from research on commercial sexual exploitation of adolescents to examine police interactions with youth who are at a high risk for or on the pathway into domestic sex trafficking, and identifies prevention and interdiction strategies. Notably, these strategies reflect the connection of police responses to domestic violence, youth status offenses, and homeless teens.