and warning signs of CSEC, such as truancy, abscondence, gang involvement, and tattoos,72 may
further add to the misconception that the child is simply a troublemaker. The GAL must
continually seek to cast his or her child client as a victim/ survivor, rather than as an offender or
Promoting a case theory begins with educating other professionals who interface with the
child about CSEC.73 Despite the increase in media attention surrounding this issue,74 old myths
and misconceptions persist.75 Unfortunately, “It was his choice to run away,” “No one forced her
to meet up with him,” and “I thought trafficking only happened in other countries,” are common
refrains,76 even among dedicated and otherwise informed public interest professionals.
When this occurs, advocates may find it useful to reference the Trafficking Victims
Protections Act.77 As discussed above, the TVPA specifically identifies trafficking victims to
include any minor who is offered up for sex in exchange for goods or services, regardless of any
purported “complicity” on behalf of the child. If the tenor of court hearings or team meetings78
tends to shame the child as a willing participant in his or her own exploitation, advocates should
continually explain the language of the TVPA and remind others of the baseline it establishes,
that this child is a victim. To the extent that local statutory rape and sexual abuse laws are
consistent with the TVPA and exclude age as a defense to these crimes, attorneys should draw
this parallel in their written and oral advocacy. Advocates should also reiterate the absence of an
international or border-crossing mandate to refute any challenges to a client’s status as a
commercially sexually exploited youth.
Despite the language of the TVPA indicating that a child is a victim, it may still be an
uphill battle to help other team members shift their mindset when it comes to CSEC cases. Given
TRAFFICKING OF GIRLS 8 (2014), available at
72 See HUMAN TRAFFICKING, supra note 23; NAT’L CTR. FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN, supra note 19; POLARIS PROJECT,
NAT’L HUMAN TRAFFICKING RESOURCE CTR., POTENTIAL TRAFFICKING INDICATORS FOR MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS, available at
73 While the authors note the importance of defining CSEC and framing the youth’s experience in context, they do so with the
important caveat that it is generally not the attorney who should decide how or when this disclosure occurs. For stated interest
attorneys representing the parent or caregiver of a CSEC survivor (such as a special education attorney), an important part of client
counseling in these cases is determining: (1) how much the parent or caregiver knows about a child’s experience; (2) the caregiver’s
perspective on that experience; and (3) what the caregiver is comfortable having shared with other individuals working with the child
and with the court. Stated interest attorneys who directly represent the youth, such as juvenile defenders, have similar obligations. See,
e.g., ABA STANDARDS, supra note 47 (RULE B-2) (comment) (indicating “[t]he lawyer-client role involves a confidential relationship
with privileged communications”). Alternatively, guardians ad litem who represent the “best interests” of a child may have more
discretion in what they share. See id. (noting that a guardian ad litem-client role may not be confidential). The authors have therefore
found that best practice calls for an ongoing dialogue with the client about the client’s comfort level with disclosure.
74 See, e.g., Danielle Martinelli, U.S. Media’s Failure to Set the Agenda for Covering Sex Trafficking, ELON J. UNDERGRADUATE RES.
COMM., Fall 2012, at 102, 108 (analyzing The New York Times’ coverage of human trafficking and noting an increase in coverage
beginning in 2007).
75 Child Trafficking, CHILD. AT RISK, http://childrenatrisk.org/research/child-trafficking/ (last visited Jan. 28, 2014) (“Human
trafficking once was thought to be a problem beyond America’s borders…. The internal or ‘domestic’ component of human trafficking
is much larger than the international one.”); see also Human Trafficking: The Myths and Realities, FORBES (Jan. 24. 2012),
http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2012/01/24/human-trafficking-the-myths-and-the-realities/ (discussing myths about human
trafficking, for example, that only women are trafficked, that everybody who is trafficked is either kidnapped or deceived, and that
trafficking does not occur in the United States); FAQs: Myth and Misconceptions, TRAFFICKING HOPE,
http://www.traffickinghope.org/faqsmyth.php (last visited Mar. 25, 2014) (listing myths, such as “Prostitution is a victimless crime”);
Myths and Misconceptions, POLARIS PROJECT, http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/overview/myths-and-misconceptions
(last visited Mar. 25, 2014) (identifying myths related to trafficking and describing the realities behind those myths).
76 See supra text accompanying note 75.
77 Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, 22 U.S.C.A. § 7102(9), (14) (West 2014).
78 While there is no mandated group of team members in a given case, for the purposes of this Article, the authors are referring to the
many legal and social service providers who may work with a commercially sexually exploited child, including but not limited to: the
child’s parent or caregiver, therapist, guardian ad litem, defense attorney, social worker, and probation officer.