“We must create innovative solutions to reverse the impact on our nation’s youth who have been victimized by abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation while simultaneously working to eradicate behavior of the perpetrators.”

John A. Tuell, Executive Director
RFK National Resource Center

Positively Changing the Lives of Sexually Exploited Children and Youth
Click here to access a 2-page informational handout (PDF).

COMMERCIALLY SEXUALLY EXPLOITED CHILDREN (CSEC) refers to minor children and youth who are victims of a range of crimes and activities involving the sexual abuse or exploitation for the financial benefit of any person or in exchange for anything of value (including monetary and non-monetary benefits). Examples of crimes and acts that constitute CSEC:

  • Child sex trafficking/the prostitution of children
  • Child sex tourism involving commercial sexual activity
  • Commercial production of child pornography
  • Online transmission of live video of a child engaged in sexual activity in exchange for anything of value

CSEC also includes situations where a child or youth, whether or not at the direction of any other person, engages in sexual activity in exchange for anything of value, which includes non-monetary things such as food, shelter, drugs, or protection from any person. Depending on the specific circumstances, CSEC may also occur in the context of internet-based marriage brokering, early marriage, and children performing in sexual venues.

PREVALENCE AND SCOPE OF THE ISSUE – According to the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), worldwide there are an estimated 4.8 million victims of sex trafficking, with the United States leading all other nations in driving demand for purchased sex. National estimates reflect there are as many 750,000 vulnerable and often marginalized children and youth who are victims or at-risk of victimization from these crimes. The demand for purchasing women, men and children for sex is continuing to escalate and the demand for sex with even younger children is tragically increasing. These youth are often a significant subset of the population of youth the RFK National Resource Center defines as dual status youth (https://usiaht.org/).

Compounding the issue is the fact that communities, government agencies, law enforcement departments and courts have been slow to acknowledge these children as victims. Rather, CSEC as offenders remains the pervasive view in many jurisdictions. These children and youth continue to be arrested for prostitution or related offenses, detained as a punitive or protective measure, and handled as delinquents within courts and agencies. There is serious concern that this abhorrent abuse of children is bound to continue unless a comprehensive and collaborative response integrating prevention and intervention strategies is developed and implemented in communities around the nation.

EVIDENCE – Research has consistently confirmed that dual status and CSEC youth present a range of important challenges that require collaboration among youth serving systems, community stakeholders, and key policy makers to create innovative methods and evidence-based practices to ensure each of these youth can realize a bright future. Behavioral challenges encountered by these youth include:

  • Severe trauma (psychological symptoms related to their victimization)
  • Mental health (including suicide, depression, stunted cognitive development)
  • Substance abuse (illicit drugs and alcohol, including methamphetamine)
  • Educational deficiencies (truancy and high rates of developmental learning disabilities)
  • Early and persistent pattern of delinquency
  • Homelessness and placement instability

APPROACH – The Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice provides expert guidance through its seminal Dual Status Youth framework and proven history of technical assistance support for state and local jurisdictions in their endeavor to improve the outcomes for dual status youth and CSEC, and their families. The approach creates systematic practices and policies to ensure consistent and long-term solutions through:

  • engagement of agency/organizational/community leadership to capitalize on local expertise and context for change
  • expert legal and policy analysis within the jurisdiction
  • systematic early screening and identification
  • creation of effective programmatic and fiscal system practices
  • adoption of evidence-based, efficient, and integrated court, probation, child welfare, education and behavioral health practice and system performance
  • application of the neuroscience of adolescent development to address risks and treatment needs
  • enhanced prevention and early intervention inter-agency approaches for youth and families
  • adoption of routine performance measurement (system/youth outcomes) toward sustainable accountability

IMPACT – Through this detailed and effective approach to system change, we achieve:

  • Increased rates of diversion from involvement in the juvenile justice system
  • Increased rates of desistance / reduced recidivism
  • Elimination or reduction in detention use and lengths of stay
  • Improved functioning in behavioral health, family, and education domains
  • Stability of placement in a home with a positive functioning family or caregiver

CURRENT PARTNERSHIPS – The RFK National Resource Center is working with the following state and local jurisdictions to achieve multi-system policy and practice enhancements on behalf of CSEC and human trafficked children and youth

State of Delaware (April 2020 – present)
State of Illinois (April 2021 – present)
Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada (May 2021 – present)


Please contact John A. Tuell, Executive Director (jtuell@rfkchildren.org) to learn more or discuss your interest in benefiting from this important focus on our nation’s most vulnerable, marginalized, and challenging population of children and youth.