Commercial Sexual Exploitation 


of Children


in the U. S., Canada and Mexico


Child Sexual Exploitation  (hereafter  "CSE")  involves practices by which a person, usually an adult, achieves sexual gratification, financial gain or advancement through the abuse or exploitation of a child’s sexuality by abrogating that child’s human right to dignity, equality, autonomy, and physical and mental well-being, i.e. trafficking, prostitution, sex tourism, mail-order-bride trade, pornography, stripping, battering, incest, rape and sexual harassment (ala Hughes, 1999).   CSE reflects a continuum of abuse that includes child sexual abuse, child sexual assault and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.


The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children  (hereafter "CSEC") involves CSE primarily or entirely for financial or other economic reasons.  The economic exchanges involved in the CSEC may be either monetary  or non-monetary  (i.e., for food, shelter, drugs) in nature but, in every case, involves maximum benefits to the exploiter and an abrogation of the basic rights, dignity, autonomy, physical and mental well-being of the children involved (ala Hughes, 1999).



The materials available from this web site were generated from a two-year study that examined the nature and extent of CSE and the CSEC in the three countries of the North American Free Trade Agreement (hereafter NAFTA), i.e., United States, Canada and Mexico.  


Project Goals and Objectives

The goals of the project included: 1) identification of the nature, extent, and underlying causes of CSE and the CSEC occurring in the three countries of the North American Free Trade region--the U.S., Canada, and Mexico; 2) identification of those subgroups of children that are at the greatest risk of being sexually exploited; 3) identification of subgroups of adult perpetrators of sex crimes against children—including pimps, traffickers, and adult “customers” of children for sex; 4) identification of the extent to which organized criminal units are involved in the CSEC; 5) identification of the modes of operation and other methods used by organized criminal units to recruit children into sexually exploitive activities; 6) identification of local, state and national laws relating to CSE and the CSEC; 7) identification of international agreements, covenants and declarations pertaining to CSE and the CSEC; 8) identification of the strengths and weakness of the country’s current capacity for preventing CSE, or at least protecting children from its commercial manifestations; and, 9) with governmental and nongovernmental leaders, frame recommendations designed to strengthen the nation’s capacity to prevent and protect the nation’s and region’s children from sexual exploitation.


Project Methods

The project was implemented in 13 phases: 1) the recruitment, selection and hiring of staff; 2) reviews of relevant criminal justice and human service literatures; 3) establishing linkages with key governmental and nongovernmental agencies and organizations serving sexually exploited children; 4) the appointment of national and regional CSE experts to an International Advisory Group; 5) interviews with key decision makers in law enforcement and the human services; 6) implementation of city focus group meetings in 28 North American cities--the U.S. (N=17), Canada (N=4), and Mexico (N=7); 7) statistical surveys of local, state and national governmental and nongovernmental organizations serving sexually exploited children; 8) interviews with sexually exploited children; 9) interviews with traffickers in children for sexual purposes (Mexico); 10) interviews with adult “customers” of children for sex (Canada); 11) reviews of local, state, and federal statutes pertaining to CSE and the CSEC; 12) reviews of international agreements, declarations and covenants pertaining to CSE and the CSEC; and 13) meetings with law enforcement and human service professionals to frame recommendations for strengthening the national capacity to prevent, or at least significantly reduce via protective activities, the number of children who become victims of CSE and the CSEC.


Research Partners

The project involved a unique partnership between: 1) leading governmental and nongovernmental organizations located in the U.S., Canada and Mexico; 2) three universities--one located in each country (the University of Pennsylvania [Philadelphia], the University of Montreal [Montreal], and the Center for Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology [Mexico City]); 3) two international child advocacy organizations (the International Bureau for Children’s Rights [Montreal] and Casa Alianza [Costa Rica]); 4) the leading national child welfare organizations in the U.S. (the Child Welfare League of America) and Mexico (the Sistema Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia--DIF); 5) a major professional association (the National Association of Social Workers); and 6) financial participation from the federal government (the U.S. Department of Justice/ National Institute of Justice), private foundations (the W. T. Grant Foundation and the Fund for Nonviolence) and two universities (the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Montreal).





For more information contact:


Dr. Richard Estes, Principal Investigator

Dr. Neil A. Weiner, Co-Principal Investigator


Results From the the U.S. National Survey




Press  Release, 9/10/01

(4 pages)


(3 pages)


(7 pages)

Executive Summary

(38 pages)

The U. S. National Report (Complete)

(257 pages)


(9 pages)

Appendix 1 (Complete)

(144 pages)

Selected Tables and Charts

Bibliography on Child Sexual Exploitation and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

Complete Curriculum Vitae of Richard J. Estes

Biosketch of Richard J. Estes

Photograph of Richard J. Estes

Biosketch of Neil A. Weiner

Photograph of Neil A. Weiner

Results From the Mexican National Survey


Results From the Canadian National Survey

Background Paper on the North American Regional Report on CSEC


CSEC-Related Publications by the Principal Investigator Since 2001

Related Links


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Last updated October 21, 2006