Commercially Sexually Exploited Youth


“We offer a victim centered, trauma informed approach to working with victims and survivors of human trafficking.” 

What is Commercial Sexual Exploitation?

Commercial Sexual Exploitation occurs when anyone buys, trades or sells sexual acts with a child. A commercial sex act is any sex act where anything of value is given to or received by any person.

Human trafficking, also known as trafficking of persons or modern-day slavery, is a crime that involves the exploitation of a person for the purpose of compelled sex or labor.

Victims of human trafficking come from all walks of life. Anyone can be a victim—regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, education level, or citizenship status. Although there is no defining characteristic that all victims share, traffickers frequently prey on individuals who are poor, vulnerable, living in an unsafe situation, or are in search of a better life.

Labor trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States and globally. Labor traffickers – including recruiters, contractors, employers, and others – use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, or other forms of coercion to force people to work against their will in many different industries.

Labor traffickers often make false promises of a high-paying job or exciting education or travel opportunities to lure people into horrendous working conditions. Yet, victims find that the reality of their jobs proves to be far different than promised and must frequently work long hours for little to no pay. Their employers exert such physical or psychological control – including physical abuse, debt bondage, confiscation of passports or money – that the victim believes they have no other choice but to continue working for that employer.



McMahon/Ryan CAC works with Onondaga County and other community-based youth-serving agencies to increase awareness, identify victims and provide comprehensive and victim centered services to potential victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

We offer case management coordination and advocacy to potential commercially sexually exploited youth. With our partners, we help youth access emergency shelter, medical care, mental health counseling, and financial assistance as well as address other safety needs while working with county-wide agencies. We provide accompaniment to court, medical appointments and other essential appointments that will help them on their path to healing and freedom of exploitation. Advocates provide assistance in applying for Office of Victim Services benefits.

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Professional Training:

Professional education is a key element in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation of children. Deficits in awareness and understanding among professionals who work with children contribute to low identification of those who are at high risk, as well as those who are actively being trafficked and exploited in the commercial sex industry. Teachers, social workers, law enforcement officers, and others interact with youth without intervention—often because they do not know what to look for or the right questions to ask—and are not always equipped to respond.

Our training helps equip professionals by navigating the causal factors of human trafficking and exploitation, key vulnerabilities, recruitment tactics, dynamics of power and control, signs of abuse and exploitation, and how to respond to disclosures.

Community Mobilization:

Volunteer Teams are central tools of our mobilization and advocacy. Volunteer Teams are passionate volunteers wanting to learn more about trafficking and take action together with McMahon/Ryan staff. Through our mobilization efforts, we are seeing people equipped to become high-impact abolitionists and advocates of change. Everyone plays an important role in ending trafficking and exploitation.

Prevention Education:

Not a #Number is an interactive, five-module prevention curriculum designed to teach youth how to protect themselves from human trafficking and exploitation through information, critical thinking, and skill development. Not a #Number uses a holistic approach focusing on respect, empathy, individual strengths, and the relationship between personal and societal pressures that create or increase vulnerabilities. Through open conversations, engaging activities, the use of media, and opportunities for self-disclosure, participants will:

  • Raise their awareness of what constitutes human trafficking and exploitation.
  • Learn how to recognize recruitment tactics and understand vulnerabilities.
  • Challenge harmful stereotypes and societal attitudes.
  • Identify healthy support systems.
  • Develop skills to safely navigate potential and existing exploitative situations.
  • Learn how to access community resources when situations occur that increase their vulnerability (or if exploitation is already underway).

To schedule a training, email Maureen Foran-Mocete, Outreach & Education Program Coordinator


In less than five years, Dressember advocates have raised over $5 million, committing to increasing global awareness and eradication of slavery and sex trafficking. Learn more >


Know the Signs

Just as “it takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a community that’s aware and looking out for its children to keep them protected from child trafficking and exploitation. Be informed and watch out for the children in your community: 


  • History of sexual abuse, neglect or domestic violence
  • Family background in commercial sex
  • Displaced by social or natural disasterIs part of an undocumented, stateless, or ostracized group
  • Poverty or family economic strain
  • Unstable or inconsistent family conditions (i.e., parental absence or neglect, substance abuse, physical/sexual/emotional abuse, multiple foster homes)
  • Running away or truancy
  • Low self-esteem or self-worth
  • Experimenting with risky sexual behaviors or drugs

Common Situations

  • Strip clubs, exotic dancing, pornography
  • Begging
  • Online ads, chat services and porn sites
  • Escort or dating services
  • Domestic labor (housecleaning, childcare, elderly care)
  • Restaurants or bars
  • The streets
  • Factories, sweatshops, or agricultural work
  • Businesses such as hotel/motels, massage parlors, nail salons

Potential Red Flags

  • Is under 18 years old and performs commercial sex acts
  • Is excessively monitored or controlled by parents, a supposed guardian or older partner or “sponsor” who claims to provide for their upbringing and needs, or who insists on speaking for them or being present at all times
  • Detached or (suddenly) isolated from majority of family members and friendsIs unable to give answers about their schedules or living and work locations/conditions; appears to possibly work and live in the same building or location
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story; contradictory personal information (age, place of birth, family life)
  • Has excessive security measures at his/her home or work (i.e., security cameras, boarded or covered windows); constant traffic of men at his/her home or work location
  • Noticeable change in dress, jewelry, hair or nails without explainable source of income
  • Shows signs of physical or sexual abuse (bruises, cuts, burns, submissiveness, jumpy, malnourishment); appears fearful, anxious, depressed, overly submissive, and avoids eye contact
  • Suffers from substance abuse problems (alcohol and/or drugs), an array of other psychological disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, or chronic illnesses
  • Carries multiple hotel key cards, lots of money, sharp objects (weapons)
  • Sudden presence of an older boyfriend
  • Tattoo with a name that is not their own; or that he/she is reluctant to explain

If you suspect that a child is being abused, call Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-342-3720