The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

If you find yourself in an unsafe situation, there are people, including your DCFS social worker, who are willing to listen without judging you or your story. They will not report you to the police, but will offer you the support you need, and can help connect you to additional supportive programs.

Commercial sexual exploitation is a severe form of child abuse – report it!

Federal Law defines Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children as:

“The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act. Severe forms of trafficking in persons” is defined as “sex trafficking 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.” [Federal law 22 USC section 7102 (9) and (10)]

California State Law expands upon this by defining Commercial Sexual Exploitation as:

“Any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.” [PC section 11165.1(d)(2)]

This means that any child under age 18 who is induced to perform a commercial sex act is considered a sex trafficking victim regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion is present. California law includes the provision of food, shelter, or payment to a child in exchange for the performance of a sexual act.

If you are a child, parent, foster parent, friend or neighbor, and you notice the signs that a child or foster youth is being exploited, please report it immediately at (800)  540-4000.

Learn More About CSEC and Get Help


  • Exchanging sexual acts on the street
  • Exchanging sexual acts in hotel settings
  • Exchanging sexual acts in home settings
  • Arranging the exchange of sexual acts on the internet/social media
  • Production of nude or sexually explicit images or video content
  • Exchanging sexual acts for goods or services (housing/food/protection)
  • Advertising a minor for sexual purposes
  • Encouraging/coercing/threatening a person to exchange sexual acts
  • Child pornography
  • Stripping
  • Erotic/nude massages
  • Escort services
  • Phone Sex Lines
  • Private Parties
  • Gang-Based Prostitution
  • Interfamilial Pimping
  • Exploitation on social media/the internet
  • Spends time in areas associated with commercial sex work
  • Provocative, sexualized clothing
  • Sexually explicit images/text posted on social media
  • Unexplained/ suspicious access to expensive clothing and goods, manicures, and hairstyling
  • Possessing multiple cell phones or unexplained sums of money
  • Tattoos or branding on face/neck/thighs/hands that suggest property (i.e., crowns, roses, “$”, “precious”, “beloved”, “Sir”, “Daddy’s girl”)
  • Attachment/dependence on cell phones
  • Frequent changing of social media accounts
  • Unexplained bruises or other physical trauma
  • Chronic runaway behavior from home/placement
  • Unexplained absences from school
  • Romantic relationships with older adults
  • Inappropriate/unhealthy intimate relationships with adults
  • Secrecy regarding intimate partners, friends, associates
  • Youth glamorizing pimping/the commercial sex industry
  • Frequent or multiple Sexually Transmitted-Infections
  • Unplanned pregnancies

NOTE: these findings alone do not always indicate that exploitation has occurred.

Resources for Sexually Exploited Youth

It’s never too late to get out of “the life”. However, it is a process. Many survivors struggle for years to leave. During this time, young people may feel confused, angry or alone, but there are people who can help. The following resources are available to help you if you find yourself in the life.

Important Phone Numbers

  • Child Protection Hotline: (800) 540-4000
  • 24-hr National Human Trafficking Hotline: (888) 373-7888
  • Text INFO or HELP to BeFree (233733)
  • You can also reach out to anyone on this list

More Resources

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Child Protection Hotline

24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Toll Free within California

(800) 540-4000

Outside of California

(213) 639-4500

TDD - Hearing Imparied

(800) 272-6699