“We must keep in mind that it is not just our own children who are at risk. The child sex tourism industry continues to thrive. Child sex tourist prey on the most vulnerable children in the most improvised areas of the world.”
– Deputy Attorney General James Cole speaks at the National Strategy Conference on Combating Child Exploitation in San Jose, California, May 17, 2011.
Extraterritorial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Child Sex Tourism)
The extraterritorial sexual exploitation of children is the act of traveling to a foreign country and engaging in sexual activity with a child in that country. Federal law prohibits an American citizen or resident to travel to a foreign country with intent to engage in any form of sexual conduct with a minor (persons less than 18 yeard old). It is also illegal to help organize or assist another person to travel for these purposes. This crime is a form of human trafficking, also referred to as child sex tourism. Convicted offenders face fines and up to 30 years of imprisonment (For more information, see Citizen's Guide to Federal Law on the Extraterritorial Sexual Exploitation of Children).
The Crime Today
The relative ease of international travel in modern-day society has led to the growth of a dark, more clandestine phenomenon– the extraterritorial sexual exploitation of children. The various modes of international travel provide easier means and more opportunities for individuals to travel abroad and engage in sexual activity with children.
In addition, technological advances have revolutionized the travel industry. The Internet allows individuals to quickly and easily exchange information regarding how and where to find child victims in foreign locations. Violators are also finding it easier to organize and navigate travel to foreign countries for these purposes online. Moreover, the utilization of the Internet may promote or encourage others to become involved in this form of child sexual exploitation.
Each year, Americans are prosecuted and convicted of committing this crime against children. While some offenders are pedophiles who preferentially seek out children for sexual relationships, others are situational abusers. These individuals do not consistently seek out children as sexual partners, but do occasionally engage in sexual acts with children when the opportunity presents itself. Children of developing countries are seen as easy targets by American perpetrators because of economic and political instabilities and the lack of effective law enforcement against this crime in these countries. However, incidents of extraterritoiral sexual exploitation of children involving American perpetratrors occur all over the world, including in less developed areas, such as Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and more developed areas, such as Europe.
Some perpetrators rationalize their sexual encounters with children with the idea that they are helping the children financially better themselves and their families. Other perpetrators are drawn towards this crime because they enjoy the anonymity that comes with being in a foreign land. Racism, gender discrimination, and cultural differences are among other justifications. Regardless, the reason for travel makes no difference under the law; any American citizen or resident who engages in sexual conduct with a minor in a foreign land is punishable under federal law.
CEOS attorneys work with the High Technology Investigative Unit (HTIU), United States Attorney’s Offices around the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security Investigations (ICE), foreign governments, and foreign law enforcement personnel to investigate and prosecute cases arising under federal statutes prohibiting the extraterritorial sexual exploitation of children.
The enforcement of these laws abroad is part of the United States' effort to eradicate the sexual exploitation of children. Offenders prosecuted in the United States often face more appropriate penalties than if they were prosecuted in the country where the sexual abuse occurred. CEOS is dedicated to developing strategies and long-lasting relationships with foreign governments, law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors to more efficiently and effectively prosecute Americans sexually exploiting children in foreign countries.
In addition, CEOS attorneys travel all over the country to conduct trainings for investigators, law enforcement personnel and others involved in efforts to eradicate this crime. Moreover, CEOS designs, implements, and supports law enforcement strategies, legislative proposals, and policy initiatives relating to federal laws on the extraterritorial sexual exploitation of children.