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Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is defined as a range of crimes and activities involving the sexual abuse or exploitation of a child for the financial benefit of any person or in exchange for anything of value given or received by any person. The value can be both monetary and non-monetary, and is often seen in examples such as food, shelter, or drugs. Age of consent does not apply to commercial sex acts.

Some examples of crimes that constitute CSEC are the following:

  • 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


Sextortion is also a form of CSEC, and is often facilitated online or through technology. It involves someone demanding something of value from a person in exchange for not releasing private, often sexual material of that person. Often, the demanding person will use existing photos they might have received voluntarily from the victim to obtain more photos, money, or something else of value. Everyone is at risk of becoming a victim, though the FBI has seen a higher number of adolescent males being targeted in Colorado and around the country. Because of this, it is important to talk to children about internet safety and to teach them it is okay to disclose if sextortion happens to them. Sextortion should be reported to your local FBI office. The Denver Division phone number is 303-629-7171.


While it can be very difficult to identify possible trafficking, even for professionals who work in the field, there are some common signs that might be indicators. 

  • Coercion and force are not always visible, so it can look like a minor is compliant with their trafficker

  • A history of running away or current status as a runaway. Of the nearly 26,300 runaways reported to NCMEC in 2019, 1 in 6 were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

  • Large amounts of cash, multiple cell phones or hotel keys

  • Tattoos or branding related to money or ownership and/or the child is unwilling to explain

  • Signs of current physical abuse and/or multiple sexually transmitted diseases

  • Presence of, or communication with, a controlling older boyfriend or girlfriend

  • Gang involvement, especially among girls

  • Travel to other states or staying at hotels when he or she runs away

One important thing to remember is many people do not connect their experiences with the definition of trafficking. Therefore, a child might not recognize what's happening to them as CSEC.

To prevent CSEC, it is important to educate children in state care, and to open those conversations with them. Children in state care are more likely to be targeted by traffickers. It is also important to teach children internet safety, and to challenge and discredit language that glamorizes commercial sex. If a child does become a victim of trafficking, do not punish the child after finding out. It can be easy to place blame on them for their experiences, but remember they are a victim in need of help.

To report CSEC cases in Colorado, call the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking's hotline at 866-455-5075, or text at 720-999-9724.



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