U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Assessing the Under-Reporting of Minor Victim Sex Trafficking

NCJ Number
Deborah Gibbs; Marianne Kluckman; Stephen Tueller; Natasha Latzman
Date Published
December 2018
29 pages
This study examined the under-identifications of minor victims of sex trafficking, as well as the characteristics and experiences of children in investigated allegations of human trafficking.
The study population was composed of 1,047,081 children who were either in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) on January 1, 2011, or had investigated allegations of human trafficking between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2017. Data on these children covered all child welfare events, such as investigated maltreatment allegations, out-of-home placements, and missing-from-care episodes that occurred between birth and age 18 (or December 31, 2017). The study found that between 2011 and 2017, DCF investigated 8,044 allegations of human trafficking that involved 5,223 children. Nearly half of these cases had credible evidence of harm, with half of these verified by a "preponderance of evidence. " For allegations that specified the type of trafficking, 90 percent were for sex trafficking. Nineteen percent of trafficking allegations involved children who were under child-welfare supervision at the time. Children with human trafficking allegations were disproportionately female, older, Black or other race, and more likely to have previous investigated maltreatment. Based on these indicators, young victims of human trafficking who may encounter the criminal justice system are the most vulnerable members of a vulnerable population, with more extensive histories of prior maltreatment. Children who are missing from foster care are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. This study's statistical models suggest that actual victimization may be between 3 and 15 times what is identified by the Florida child welfare agency. This finding shows the need for law enforcement and other child-serving personnel, to screen youth processed in juvenile justice settings. Those believed to be potentially trafficked youth should be referred to child welfare agencies for investigation into possible victimization. 14 tables and a listing of study products