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Study: Childhood Sexual Abuse at Home Raises Risk of Human Trafficking Involvement

by John Gomez | Last Updated: January 19, 2017
Childhood Sexual Abuse

As we’ve mentioned recently, January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  The children’s rights lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys are going to continue to work to raise awareness with regards to this terrible situation regardless of our place on the calendar.  Law enforcement agencies around the world have engaged in noble efforts to arrest those involved in human trafficking.

Unfortunately, the problem nonetheless remains enormous in scope around the world.  Researchers in Florida have released a study that attempts to identify what can lead to a child becoming ensnared in the dire world of human trafficking.  Those researchers may have identified and partially quantified at least one factor that raises this risk.  That factor, according to the study, is childhood sexual abuse at home.

If you suspect that any child is suffering in this manner, contact law enforcement as soon as possible.  To explore your legal rights further subsequent to reporting the matter to police, contact children’s rights attorneys at the Gomez Trial Attorneys.

About the Childhood Sexual Abuse Study

The researchers from the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg reviewed the files of 913 boys and girls who were in the juvenile justice system.  The Florida child abuse hotline accepted human trafficking reports for each of them.  Complainants filed these reports between 2009 and 2015.  The researchers compared the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, and what is known as their cumulative childhood adversity score to these reports.  Basically, the researchers were looking to see how likely it was that the children who were involved in human trafficking had suffered childhood sexual abuse.

The researchers reached the following conclusions:

  • Childhood sexual abuse was the strongest predictor of involvement in human trafficking in the sample studied.
  • Girls who had suffered childhood sexual abuse were 2.52 times more likely to be involved in human trafficking than girls in the sample who had not been sexually abused.
  • Boys who had suffered childhood sexual abuse were 8.21 times more likely to be involved in human trafficking than boys who had not been sexually abused.
  • Maltreatment of children overall placed them in a higher risk category for human trafficking in general.

Those who are interested in reading the study’s abstract can find it here.

What the Human Trafficking Study Means

Human trafficking is a serious problem across the globe.  While it’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions from this study, it does indicate with some specificity that human trafficking could be yet another potential long-term consequence of this terrible occurrence.  The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments has published a list of risk factors for children who may become victims of human trafficking.  Some examples of these risk factors include:

  • Lack of personal safety
  • Isolation
  • Emotional distress
  • Homelessness
  • Poverty
  • Family dysfunction
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental illness
  • Learning disabilities
  • Developmental delay
  • Lack of social support
  • Promotion of sexual exploitation by family members or peers
  • Childhood sexual abuse

The study mentioned above is not the first to identify childhood sexual abuse as a risk factor with regards to subsequent human trafficking.  However, it does quantify the situation to a degree.  Additionally, survivors of childhood sexual abuse are nearly twice as likely to run away from home as compared to children who are not abused in this manner.  Most experts see runaways as prime targets for human trafficking.

Childhood Sexual Abuse Statistics

Darkness to Light is a non-profit organization that works to raise awareness with regards to childhood sexual abuse.  The organization published a large body of statistics relating to this problem.  Some of these statistics include:

  • Approximately 10 percent of children are sexually abused before they turn 18.
  • 1 in 7 girls will be sexually abused before they reach adulthood.
  • 1 in 25 boys will also endure some form of childhood sexual abuse.
  • Approximately 400,000 babies born in the United States every year will ultimately become victims of childhood sexual abuse.
  • Nearly 70 percent of all sexual assault reports filed in the United States concern children who are 17 years old or younger.

These are clearly daunting statistics.  Everyone needs to work to learn more about this issue so that we can recognize the warning signs of childhood sexual abuse and do something about it.

Warning Signs of Childhood Sexual Abuse

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is another organization that works to bring down the prevalence of sexual violence.  RAINN has published warning signs for childhood sexual abuse and broken them down into two categories.  These warning signs appear below.

Physical Signs of Childhood Sexual Abuse

  • Bleeding, bruises or swelling in the area of the genitals
  • Bloody, torn or stained underclothes
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Frequent urinary tract or yeast infections
  • Pain, itching or burning in the genital area

Behavioral Signs of Childhood Sexual Abuse

  • Sudden changes in hygienic habits
  • The development of phobias
  • Exhibits signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • The expression of suicidal thoughts, most common in teens
  • A sudden drop in academic performance
  • Inappropriate sexual knowledge
  • Nightmares
  • Bed-wetting
  • The assumption of a caretaker role
  • Regressive behavior such as sucking of the thumb
  • Harms him or herself
  • Run away from home
  • Seems threatened by physical contact

How Children’s Rights Attorneys Can Help

Everyone who makes the effort to learn more about childhood sexual assault puts him or herself in a better position to make a positive impact on this horrible problem in the future.  Another way to help stem the tide of childhood sexual abuse and human trafficking is to make sure to hold those responsible for this type of harm accountable.  This can include accountability that’s doled out by the criminal justice system, but this is not the only option for society’s interest in protecting the safety, happiness and dignity of our children.

If you suspect that a child is being abused or is involved in human trafficking, you should do something about it.  If you are unsure of what to do or you want to learn more about your legal options, seek the help of children’s rights lawyers who understand what it takes to achieve positive results in terrible situations.

Contact the team at Gomez Trial Attorneys as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.


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