I thought sex trafficking and the exploitation only happened overseas – is there really a need for these programs in the Bay Area?

Many major cities, including the Bay Area, are hubs for domestic child sexual exploitation and trafficking. In 2012, BAWAR served 200 underage survivors of exploitation and trafficking. Roughly 78% of these children are residents of Alameda County. An additional 21% were trafficked from other California counties (LA, San Joaquin, Sacramento, Contra Costa, Kern, and Fresno counties) and the remaining 1% were trafficked from out of state.

Why and how do kids get into this lifestyle?

Many kids who get caught in this lifestyle have early histories of sexual abuse. Experiencing sexual assault at a young age, often as early as 3 years old, shapes the way a child identifies their worth and the value of their body. Many of these youths are also involved with foster care, meaning they lack the security of a stable family and support system. Exploiters target these vulnerabilities. Often an exploiter will begin a romantic relationship with a young girl or boy, buying them expensive gifts and providing them with a false sense of security, attention, and love. Once a child is dependent on the exploiter, they will be coerced or forced into prostitution. Many times, the exploiter will get the child addicted to drugs then use the drugs as a reward or payment.

What are the signs that someone might be sexually exploiting my child or loved one?

Possible signs that a child is being sexually exploited include:

  • Noticeable changes in behavior such as suddenly becoming secretive or defensive when asked about their social life.
  • Unexplainable expensive gifts or outings.
  • Truancy/disengagement from school.
  • Bruises, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancies, etc.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Sudden surfacing of eating disorders and/or other self harming behaviors (i.e. cutting).

What should I do if I suspect that someone we know may be a victim of sexual exploitation?

We welcome concerned friends and family to call our 24 hour hotline to receive support and suggestions on how to consciously approach someone you believe may be a victim.

How can I get involved with BAWAR?
For information on volunteering, please click here

I live outside the Bay Area. What resources are there in my area?
The Girls Education & Mentoring Service (GEMS) has compiled a comprehensive, state-by-state list of agencies providing services addressing sexual exploitation and trafficking. We are grateful to GEMS for their pioneering work. To see what resources are available in your area, please click here.