The Intersection between Dating Abuse and Domestic Sex Trafficking of Youth

The main similarity between dating abuse among youth and domestic sex trafficking of youth is the abusive partner’s use of threats and violence to maintain power and control. In addition, survivors of both share experiences of shame and abuse by romantic partners who betrayed their trust. They may not recognize signs of abusive behavior, and have experienced similar barriers to seeking help (lack of awareness of legal and social services).

Youth who are or have been in sexually abusive dating relationships are at high risk of domestic sex trafficking because they have experienced physical and sexual violence by a romantic partner. In addition, many young survivors view their relationship with their trafficker as a dating relationship. As a result, domestic sex trafficking can be viewed as a severe type of dating abuse.

Most people perceive domestic sex trafficking of youth as a separate issue from dating abuse among youth. However, it is important to remember that both dating abuse among youth and domestic sex trafficking of youth are a range of experiences of physical and sexual violence against youth by their romantic partners.

The abuse is not your fault. You did not do anything “wrong” to cause the abuse. You do not deserve to be abused.

Warning Signs of Domestic Sex Trafficking

In order to protect yourself or help a friend, you should know the warning signs of domestic sex trafficking.

What are the Warning Signs?
  • Has no ID

  • Gang involvement

  • Has a girlfriend/ boyfriend who is noticeably older and/ or controlling

  • Does not attend school on a regular basis and/ or unexplained absences

  • Unexplained costly gifts, jewelry, clothing, shoes and cell phone

  • Coached or rehearsed responses to questions

  • References made to frequent travel to other cities

  • Repeated sexually transmitted infections

  • Unexplained bruises, cuts or scratches

  • Always needs to answer their phone and has to account for their whereabouts to their partner

  • Withdrawal or lack of interest in previous activities

  • Increasingly isolated from friends and family

  • Prostitution arrest(s) or loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution arrest(s) and different ages/aliases

  • Special marked tattoos (names or images) on the neck or back

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