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Effects of Federal Legislation on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2010
12 pages
This study examined the effects of the Federal Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) on the Federal prosecution of cases that involve the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).
The TVPA criminalizes human trafficking on a Federal level. It criminalizes a commercial sex act in which the victim is younger than 18 years old. Traffickers who exploit children younger than 14 years old for the purposes of a commercial sex act can be sentenced to up to life in prison; if the victim is between 14 and 18 years old, the trafficker is eligible for as much as 20 years in prison; subsequent Federal legislation has increased this penalty to life in prison (Adam Walsh Act of 2006). The study's key findings indicate that the current Federal legislation intended to counter CSEC is sufficient to address such crimes, with task force efforts being an important component of successful prosecution. Factors important in predicting conviction in a CSEC case are being filed after passage of the TVPA, the case having been investigated by the U.S. Customs Service, having a longer processing time, having one defendant rather than multiple defendants, and being charged with possessing or distributing child pornography rather than child prostitution or child sexual exploitation. Suggestions for improving the prosecution of CSEC cases are to maintain consistent definitions of CSEC; providing better training to law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges who deal with CSEC cases, and improving efforts to collect and use data on what works in countering CSEC and assists in identifying victims. Study methods included a literature review, interviews with four Federal prosecutors, a focus group with service providers and advocates, and statistical analyses of Federal CSEC cases filed by U.S. attorneys from 1998 through 2005. 5 figures, 13 notes, and 19 references

Date Published: July 1, 2010