Child sex trafficking: It’s probably not what you think it is

“You just have to dance, we can make a little money like that.”

That’s what Shandel, then 13, said her boyfriend told her at a party he had taken her to some 12 years ago.
And that’s how it all began, Shandel, now 25, recalled. Gradually, the man she thought of as the only person who loved her or even cared for her, demanded more. Much more — and she said he would physically abuse her if she refused.
Even now, it is difficult for Shandel — who requested CNN use only her first name due to privacy concerns — to talk to strangers about what she was forced to do with men.
She had left an abusive situation at home — her dad was on drugs, and her mother had “her own issues,” Shandel said. The man she left home for “was the first person that felt like who loved me.”
“In hindsight, it wasn’t love, but it felt like love,” she said. “It was like, if I didn’t do these things, then he wouldn’t love me.”

Shandel is among the many victims of sex trafficking, the commercial sexual exploitation of children. While the term trafficking evokes for many images of children kidnapped off the street, smuggled across borders and moved from place to place, that’s rarely the case, social workers and researchers say.


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