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Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Commercial sexual exploitation is an umbrella term referring to sex trafficking crimes. In this article, we define the terms commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) and commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), and review laws related to sex trafficking.

Key Takeaways

  • Commercial sexual exploitation is the act of forcing a person into labor involving sexual services
  • Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is the commercial sexual exploitation of people under 18 years of age
  • Commercial sexual exploitation may include pornography, prostitution, stripping, and other activities
  • Penalties for sex trafficking in the United States range between 10 years and life in prison

What Is Commercial Sexual Exploitation?

Commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) is a trafficking crime in which the primary form of forced labor is in sexual services. It is not a legal definition but can be used as a broader term to include activities not typically covered in sex trafficking laws. 

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is the commercial sexual exploitation of people under 18 years of age. It involves the procurement of a child to perform sexual activities such as prostitution or pornography for a reward, financial or otherwise. The reward may be claimed by, payable to, or shared between a number of parties including the procurer, the child, the child’s parent or caregiver, or any other person.

It is estimated that out of five million CSE victims around the world, approximately one million are children, and 99% are women and girls. 

Commercial sexual exploitation may take the form of any of the following:

  • Interfamilial pimping
  • Internet-based exploitation
  • Street prostitution
  • Gang-based prostitution
  • Phone sex 
  • Erotic or nude massage
  • Private parties
  • Pornography
  • Stripping
  • Escort services

​​Commercial Sexual Exploitation ​​and Sexual Assault Law

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), the legal definition of sex trafficking is “The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.” 

In the United States, it is illegal to knowingly recruit, harbor, entice, provide, transport, obtain, or maintain an adult or minor for the purposes of sex trafficking. If the victim is under 14 years of age and the offense involves fraud, coercion, or force, the penalty for sex trafficking is between 15 years and life in prison. If the victim is between 14 and 17 years old, the penalty is 10 years to life in prison.  

If you or someone you know is in danger of commercial sexual exploitation, call 911. You may also reach out to the National Human Trafficking Hotline for more resources and information. 

  • Call: 1-888-373-788 (TTY: 711)
  • Text: 233733

If you want to take legal action against a perpetrator of sex trafficking, you can begin by consulting with a lawyer experienced in these types of cases.

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