Hickle, Kristine E., and Dominique E. Roe-Sepowitz. "Putting The Pieces Back Together: A Group Intervention For Sexually Exploited Adolescent Girls." Social Work With Groups 37.2 (2014): 99-113. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 July 2014.
Kotrla, Kimberly. "Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the United States." Social Work 55.2 (2010): 181-187. Academic Search Premier. Web. 18 July 2014.
Smith, Linda A., Samantha Healy Vardaman, and Melissa A. Snow. National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America's Prostituted Children. Vancouver: Shared Hope International, 2009. Print.
The victims of sex trafficking are typically young people between the ages of 11 and 14, but can be as young as 5, who fall into the world of commercial sexual exploitation after experiencing abuse, isolation, or drug addiction (Hickle and Roe-Sepowitz, 101; Kotrla, 182). In principle and in the eyes of the state, these young people are victims, not criminals (Kotrla, 182). Events that foreshadow a life in the commercial sex trade include “maltreatment, sexual abuse, emotional and/or physical abuse, neglect, parental drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, poverty, and running away from home” (Hickle and Roe-Sepowitz, 100). These precursors make adolescents prime targets for traffickers, who typically present themselves as a friend or boyfriend and lure their victims into commercial sexual exploitation through coercion and threats.
Once trapped in the commercial sex trade, victims are treated brutally and are typically unable and unequipped to leave that lifestyle on their own (101). Those who do escape or are rescued suffer from severe psychological, physical, and emotional trauma. The emotional and psychological aftermath includes, but is not limited to, "post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, self-harm, shame, hopelessness, and, in some cases, attempted suicide" (101). Physically, victims can suffer from "drug addiction, Hepatitis B and C, and/or sexually transmitted infections" (101). The amount of treatment required to heal these emotional and physical wounds can be extensive.
The fact that many children and teens are exploited and harmed in this way everyday in Arizona is deplorable. However, it cannot be overemphasized that most cannot leave this lifestyle without help. Until the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) in 2000, children taken out of domestic minor sex trafficking were treated as criminals by society and the legal system (Hickle and Roe-Sepowitz, 100; Smith, Vardaman, and Snow, 74). Since then, the public has slowly shifted its perspective from seeing these children as criminals to recognizing that they are victims. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go.