Q&A: What is Sex Trafficking?

For Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we spoke with Kimiya Trauma Therapy Advisor Dr. HaeSung Han about sex trafficking of minors. Check out her Q&A to learn about the the exploitation of minors and what can be done to stop it.

What is sex trafficking:

The term, “sex trafficking” means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.

The term, “severe forms of sex trafficking in person” means sex trafficking in which a 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.  

Who can be a victim of sex trafficking?:

Specific to minors, anyone can be vulnerable and lured into exploitation and trafficking.  However, we see an increased risk in those who have a history of childhood sexual abuse, involved with the juvenile justice or foster care system, disconnected from the school system, experience familial conflict, and those with limited access to financial means.  

What is the magnitude of this problem?

The trafficking of minors happens all across the United States and internationally.  Based on a 25% victimization rate of vulnerable youth (child maltreatment, foster care and unsheltered youth) UT Austin estimated around 79,000 minors are victims of sex trafficking in Texas. This translates to around 19,000 in the DFW area. Again, these are not actual identified victims but an estimate based on the number of vulnerable youths.  

How can I help end sex trafficking of minors?

There are several ways you can help.  One is understanding supply and demand.  There are buyers who sexually abuse minors in exchange for money or anything of value, and those who financially profit from this illegal enterprise.  The buying can occur in-person AND even via online transaction through porn sites.  When you see the objectification and degradation of girls, women, ANY individual, know that it comes with a psychological and life shattering cost to the victim and even to the voyeur.  

Also, realize that if we as a society want to end trafficking, we need to understand vulnerability of minors.  We have to do more to prevent child maltreatment, specifically the sexual abuse of children.  We need to ensure equitable access to education for all kids no matter their zip code.  We also have to ensure access to high quality educational and  therapeutic services for youth and families.  This can start with mandatory parenting education in schools, understanding and preventing intimate partner violence, and most importantly, we have to address patriarchy and how it seeps into the dynamic of “expected” relationship norms.  If we want to end the cycle of exploitation and trafficking of minors, we need to collectively come together create a society, a community that upholds equality and equity for all as well as empowerment and respect for girls and women.

Dr. HaeSung Han is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist and a Board Certified, Nationally Registered Art Therapist. She is the Co-Founder of POETIC, an intensive in-community program that build a pipeline out the juvenile justice and foster care system for girls with a history of child maltreatment, commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.  Dr Han received her master’s and doctoral degree in clinical psychology from George Washington University and also received a master’s degree in art therapy from New York University. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship in forensic psychology at Audrey Hepburn Children’s House, Hackensack University Medical Center in the field of child maltreatment. She completed two post-graduate certificate programs: one in international trauma studies from Columbia University and the other in civil and criminal forensic psychology from Montclair State University.  Dr. Han’s work with trauma-exposed populations was recognized by Texas Women’s Foundation as she was awarded their 2019 Young Leader Award.  She is also a 2020 and 2021 Presidential Leadership Scholar and a 2020 Dallas Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project.