Opportunity for Youth to Get Involved in the Local Anti-Trafficking Movement

As discussed on the ZYD blog earlier this year, there is a definite connection between the commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) of children and the juvenile justice system. Although exact numbers don’t currently exist, studies show that most victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children in King County have also been involved in the legal system.

The same systemic issues, racial inequity, and income inequality that make youth vulnerable to becoming involved in the legal system also make youth targets for perpetrators of CSE. It is imperative that children and young adults are not treated as criminals. There is no such thing as a voluntary child sex worker or child prostitute. They are the victims of a criminal act and failed system.

Here in King County, the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Task Force (CSEC) was formed in 2013. The CSEC Task Force works to ensure safety, support the needs, and prevent the further victimization of children who have been or are being sexually exploited. CSE of children happens when a person buys, trades, or sells sex acts with a person under the age of 18.


The threat to local youth is substantial. There are an estimated 1,971 – 2,475 buyers in a 24-hour period based on 2 Chat Bots posing as underage children online ran by Seattle Against Slavery (SAS) in June 2019.

In November 2019, Dr. Debra Boyer published, “Commercially Sexually Exploited Children in Seattle/King County 2019 Update”. The report noted 231 children (age 18 and under) and 242 young adults (ages 19 – 24) in Seattle were trafficked in 2018. The largest known population of youth vulnerable to CSE are runaway and homeless youth. Within this group, youth of color and LGBTQ youth are significantly over-represented.

In 2019, advocacy group StolenYouth, also published a study that included demographics of King County youth who received services related to experiencing commercial sexual exploitation. The study showed a disproportionate number of Black children victimized by commercial sexual exploitation and shed more light on who the perpetrators of this crime are. Only 7% of King County’s population is Black. However, 31% of commercially sexually exploited youth in King County identify as Black. Nationally, the numbers show 60% of buyers are White.

*  StolenYouth’s 2018 study of youth in King County receiving services for experiencing commercial sexual exploitation


Recognizing the intersectionality between juvenile detention, and commercially sexually exploited children, the Zero Youth Detention Program (ZYD) supports the work of CSEC policy changes and programming. Progress has been made locally to dismantle systemic roadblocks, address racial inequities, and recognize vulnerabilities within the system that leads to the commercial sexual exploitation of youth. This makes it possible to place blame and criminal charges where it belongs, on the buyers. Rather than holding young people criminally responsible for prostitution or sex trafficking, it is now the practice of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to connect youth picked up with support services.

As a result of this ongoing work in the system, in 2018, no minors were charged for prostitution. King County’s Prosecuting Attorney Office reported a 28% increase in prosecutions of buyers between 2017 and 2018.


Trainings are available to young people here in King County to learn ways they can help end the sex trafficking of children and young adults.

SAS is hosting two upcoming workshops for young people looking to get into the anti-trafficking movement. The SAS Youth Leadership Board is hosting summer youth workshops to engage young people in important conversations about activism, social justice, policy, and accountability.

Join SAS to attend a free online training:

AUGUST 3: ANTI-TRAFFICKING TECHNOLOGY – How is technology used to fight against exploitation? Hear all about it from SAS’s Anti-Trafficking Technology Director, Liz Rush!

AUGUST 17: MEN’S ACCOUNTABILITY – Learn how men’s accountability is used to prevent gender-based violence. This workshop will be led by SAS’s Men’s Accountability Director, Eli Zucker.


All workshops will be held online at 3 p.m.

Interested in attending? Email kayla@seattleagainstslavery.org to RSVP.



If THE DANGER IS IMMEDIATE, do not wait, call 911.

If you suspect a case of human trafficking, either sex or labor, are working with a young person who you’re concerned is being trafficked, or a young person discloses commercial sexual exploitation directly to you, the best thing you can do first is show compassionate, non-judgmental care. Then, be a safe person they can come to. Connect the young person to services by calling the Bridge Collaborative’s 24-hour hotline: 1.855.400.2732 (1.855.400.CSEC).

The National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1.888.3737.888, is another resource to find assistance for all case of human trafficking, either sex or labor.