You may be wondering what legal actions you can take as a parent/caregiver if you suspect sex trafficking in your neighborhood, or find out that your child has been sexually exploited or involved in commercial sex.
In case of immediate danger, call 911
If you witness a situation of exploitation, or are told by a child that they are facing threats of immediate danger, contact 911.
If you suspect human trafficking, call The National Human Trafficking Hotline, 888-373-3888
The hotline is available to answer all calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. Calls received by the hotline are always anonymous unless the caller chooses to provide the NHTRC with his or her name and contact information and authorizes its use. This information is not given to law enforcement, other individuals, or other agencies without prior consent.
What happens after I report a tip?
After receiving a tip, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) team jointly conducts a thorough internal review process to determine appropriate next steps. Crisis calls and urgent tips receive immediate follow-up.
Before reporting, the NHTRC will consider the needs and stated preferences of the caller as a primary consideration. Additional considerations include the specificity of the information provided, the presence of indicators of severe forms of trafficking in persons, the involvement of minors, and the anti-trafficking services and law enforcement available in the caller’s area. The preferences, when known, of the potential victims involved will also be taken as a primary consideration.
Follow-up may involve any of the following actions:
- An additional call to the caller to confirm the accuracy of information (with the caller’s consent)
- Provision of materials and/or referrals to organizations in the caller’s area serving trafficking victims
- A report to a local anti-trafficking organization, service provider, or law enforcement. (Please refer to the NHTRC’s Confidentiality Policy.)
Find out the age of consent in your state
The legal consequences of sexual exploitation or involvement in commercial sex for a minor can depend on the age of consent, which varies from state to state. For example, the age of consent in California is 18, while in Connecticut it’s 16.
Become familiar with the laws in your state
The laws regarding human trafficking also vary state by state. While federal law defines any minor involved in commercial sex as a victim of human trafficking, each state varies in how human trafficking charges are handled.
The State Map from Polaris shows a list of current state laws and service providers for human trafficking victims/survivors for each state.
Understand child pornography laws
Images of child pornography are not protected under First Amendment rights, and are illegal contraband under federal law. Section 2256 of Title 18, United States Code, defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under the age of 18).
Visual depictions include photographs, videos, digital or computer generated images indistinguishable from an actual minor, and images created, adapted, or modified, but which appear to depict an identifiable, actual minor.
Visual depictions created by a minor of themselves of another minor are also considered child pornography.
To report an incident involving the production, possession, distribution, or receipt of child pornography, file a report on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)’s website at www.cybertipline.com or call 1-800-843-5678. Your report will be forwarded to a law enforcement agency for investigation and action.
You should also report the incident to federal, state, or local law enforcement.
Understand statutory rape laws
If a minor under the age of consent has engaged in sexual activity with someone over 18, but it did not involve an exchange of money or goods, it is possible that the abuser can be charged for statutory rape.
In cases of statutory rape, it’s possible that the child may not see it as abuse or exploitation, but rather a sexual/romantic relationship with an older person.
In statutory rape, overt force or threat need not be present, because a minor is legally incapable of giving consent to the act.
Refer to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ summary of current state laws.