On May 28, 2019 doctoral student Ieke de Vries and master's student Kelly Goggin led a webinar entitled “The Impact of Childhood Abuse on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth.”
Although commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) of minors has received strong attention from scholars and practitioners, there is a continued lack of understanding around which factors increase a minor’s risk of this type of victimization. It is often assumed that childhood abuse is one of the key predictors, though there is contradicting evidence on the distinct impacts of sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse.
In their webinar, the criminal justice researchers began with a comprehensive analysis of prior research; they utilized quantitative meta-analytical techniques to estimate an overall direct impact of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse on a minor’s risk to CSE. Key findings demonstrated that sexual abuse considerably increases the risk of exploitation, especially among female youth in the United States. Physical and emotional abuse showed negligible or no significant independent impacts, even though a few studies have begun to suggest that experiencing multiple types of childhood abuse may aggravate a risk of sexual exploitation. Whereas childhood sexual abuse has shown to increase a minor’s risk to CSE, a follow-up study utilizing data of about 300 youth in the Northeast with a broad range of prior childhood adversities shows that within a pool of at-risk youth other experiences and behaviors are more important determinants to actually become a victim of CSE. The researchers go on to discuss results and implications for the development of screening and assessment tools.
Ieke de Vries is a doctoral candidate at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and affiliated with the Violence and Justice Research Laboratory at Northeastern University, Boston. She is using practice-oriented research to study the issue of human trafficking utilizing new data and computational methods. Prior to joining SCCJ, she worked at the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children. Kelly Goggin is a master’s student at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and a graduate research assistant in the Violence and Justice Research Laboratory at Northeastern University, Boston.