Office of the Arizona Governor Doug Ducey
Governor's Office of Youth, Faith and Family

The average age of entry for youth into sex trafficking in Arizona is 14 years old. ASU Sex Trafficking and Intervention Research (STIR)

What is Trafficking?

The Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) defines the crime of trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where such an 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. It is important to understand from the federal definition is that anyone under the age of 18 who is induced to perform a commercial sex act is automatically a trafficking victim.

Victims are often reluctant to come forward because they have been taught by their victimizer that if they attempt to seek help, no one will believe them, and they will be treated like a criminal and a prostitute (Bigelsen, 2013). It is helpful to understand that there are many similarities in victimization between intimate partner violence and sex trafficking. Victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence tend to hide their situations and both victim groups are hesitant to disclose their victimization in medical or clinical settings (Roe-Sepowitz et al, 2013).

Who Are The Victims?

While there is no commonly accepted profile for victims of minor sex trafficking, certain populations are more vulnerable than others. Traffickers target runaway or “throwaway” teens or those who are having trouble at home.
How do individuals become victims of trafficking?

  • Recruitment by “Romeo/boyfriend” traffickers who convince them that they love and care for them.
  • Kidnapping by “gorilla pimp” and forced into the life.
  • Gang related prostitution.
  • A parent or family member pimps their child for drugs or money.
  • Running away and living on the streets and are forced to exchange sex for survival.

Vulnerable youth can be lured into trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation using promises, psychological manipulations, provision of drugs and alcohol, and violence. The trafficker’s main purpose is financial gain and will make every effort to establish trust and allegiance by wooing the victim in what feels like a loving and caring relationship. Victims are: 

One Targeted

Traffickers "shop" for their victims online, in shopping malls, bus stops, schools, after school programs, foster homes. 

Two Tricked

Traffickers invest a lot of time and effort in forming a bond with their victim. They often buy gifts, provide a place to stay, and give affection before revealing their true intent to sexually exploit them. Traffickers use a powerful technique pioneered by religious cults knon as "love bombing" in which a girl is showered with affection as a means of manipulating her.*

3 Traumatized

The trafficker's use of psychological manipulation, physical violence and rape can make the victim feel trapped and powerless. The "trauma bond" is very difficult to break and may require intensive long term treatment and counseling.**

* Dorais & Corriveau, 2009

** National Center for Missing and Exploited Youth, 2014

Understanding the Mindset of a Victim

By understanding the mindset of a victim, we can be better equipped to identify and assist victims. 

  • Victims often do not see themselves as victims.
  • Victims may feel shame, self–blame and feelings of unworthiness of a better life.
  • Victims may be coached to lie to nurses and other health professionals and often give fabricated histories with scripted stories.
  • Victims are often fearful and distrust law enforcement and government services due to fear of arrest.
  • Victims often fear for their own safety and the safety of their loved ones due to threats of violence.
  • Victims may have formed a trauma bond with their exploiter and may have deep loyalties and positive feeling for their abuser.
  • Drugs often play a role in sex trafficking situations – sometimes as a way to cope or victims sometime enter “the life” to support a drug habit.
Arizona Guidelines to Fight Youth Sex Trafficking

The Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF) together with the Arizona Human Trafficking Council is pleased to announce the release of the Arizona Guidelines for Developing a Regional Response to Youth Sex Trafficking .  The Guidelines are a statewide model that serves as a roadmap of best practices for providing a coordinated response to victims of youth sex trafficking.

The Arizona Human Trafficking Council has identified the need for guidelines to assist communities throughout Arizona to help develop a coordinated response to sex trafficking which will limit additional trauma to a victim while holding perpetrators accountable for this heinous crime. 

PDF icon Download Guidelines