The Child-Trafficking-to-Adult-Prostitution Pipeline, with Yasmin Vafa

Season 2Episode 3January 24, 2020

The connections between child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and the adult sex trade—and how full decriminalization of adult prostitution could end up harming kids.

Multiple states and jurisdictions are considering full decriminalization of adult prostitution. On the surface, it seems like a way to help an exploited population. But the potential for harm is real—especially for children. January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and we spoke to Yasmin Vafa of Rights4Girls about the connections between child sexual abuse and sex trafficking and the adult sex trade. What are supporters of full decriminalization missing? And what would a truly survivor-focused approach look like?

Topics in this episode:

  • The sexual-abuse-to-prison pipeline, a domestic crisis (1:30)
  • No such thing as a child prostitute (4:27)
  • State statutes; child sex trafficking is a form of child abuse (6:15)
  • The connection between sex trafficking and the rest of the sex trade (9:30)
  • Defeating a full decriminalization bill in Washington, D.C. (17:40)
  • Other states considering decriminalization (20:43)
  • Advice to child advocates (24:11)


Yasmin Vafa, co-founder and executive director of Rights4Girls (originally known as Human Rights Project for Girls)

The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story

The No Such Thing Campaign featured Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, whose viral petition helped persuade the Associated Press to stop using terms such as “child prostitute.”

Human trafficking state laws

National Center for Homeless Education (U.S. Department of Education) resources on trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children, Youth and Families “Guidance to States and Services on Addressing Human Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United States

Vermont bill would decriminalize adult prostitution,” January 12, 2020, Associated Press

Current status of H.569, “An act relating to prostitution,” in the Vermont General Assembly

The equality model or Swedish model (partial decriminalization)

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). If you suspect an incident of child sex trafficking, call the NCMEC hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Don’t ask, “what if I’m wrong?” Ask, “what if I’m right?”


Transcript to come.