Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MA in Child Development


There is a current problem with the way that the American criminal justice system is responding to survivors of commercial sexual exploitation of children, or CSEC. In this thesis, I will first acknowledge that this oppressive, abusive, and tragic reality cannot be fully examined in this one piece of writing and offer two areas of further exploration which are limited in this piece: international CSEC and the victimization of boys and transgender youth. I will then explore the development of CSEC on American soil, from how youth become coerced into “the life”, what physical and psychological tactics exploiters use, and the long-term effects that are most notable and studied. By using literature review and personal narratives of people I have met in my professional work, the thesis will progress into an overview of how the American criminal justice system is responding to CSEC and its victims, and why it is overwhelmingly a broken system that is more punitive than restorative and healing. Finally, several suggestions will be offered in terms of how to empower victims of CSEC, as opposed to further silencing their voices, as this would be the most valuable tool in changing the system for future generations.

Included in

Psychology Commons