A Shift from Counting Generally to Counting Specifically

Many research efforts to date have focused on collecting prevalence data on commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. Based on difficulties entailed in measuring crime in general and in measuring commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors specifically, however, the committee concluded that it would not be useful to devote substantial resources to refining estimates of the problems’ overall prevalence. At the same time, more needs to be known about the prevalence of these crimes among and the associated needs of certain vulnerable populations, including but not limited to boys; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth; homeless youth; rural youth; systems-involved youth; and racial and ethnic minority populations, including Native Americans. Many of these children and adolescents have specific risk factors and needs that have not yet been adequately recognized or examined.

Priority Areas for Research

In addition to emphasizing the importance of addressing the needs of vulnerable youth, the committee suggests the following priority areas for immediate examination:

•    development of evidence-based prevention strategies;

•    identification of risk and protective factors;

•    development and evaluation of short- and long-term intervention needs and strategies;

•    gender- and ethnic-responsive delivery of services (including physical health, mental health, legal, housing, and education) and support to difficult-to-reach populations;

•    comprehensive, multisector approaches; and

•    demand and its reduction.

Publication and Dissemination of Research Findings

Developing and implementing a national research agenda with clearly defined priority areas could help build an evidence base for understanding and identifying promising and best practices for the prevention and identification of and response to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States. Broad dissemination of the research findings through publication in the peer-reviewed literature would help build a much-needed critically reviewed evidence base to inform future programs, policies, and practices.

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