Youth Sexual Exploitation

Who are the Perpetrators

For the most part, perpetrators, also known as pimps or recruiters, lure children and youth into the sex industry. Usually, children and youth have no idea at the outset that they are in danger of sexual exploitation and that they will be involved in sexual acts or violence. Youth are often attracted by the excitement, attention and money that a perpetrator offers, and their lack of life experience does not prepare them for the reality of the outcome.



A pimp is a person who uses force or coercion to control youths’ activities in the sex industry and profits from it. Pimps may also recruit. A pimp can be male or female, of any age, from any ethnic background and fit any physical description. The majority of pimps are male and most share certain qualities. They often:

  • are associated with other criminal activities
  • pose as a friend or boyfriend who is nice to the family—polite, considerate and a smooth talker
  • know how to look for and prey on children’s weaknesses and easily seduce young people into this lifestyle
  • have a strong desire to possess money and personal status within peer groups
  • are involved with drugs or drug activity
  • carry weapons
  • are manipulative
  • often have violent backgrounds (assault charges, abusive histories)
  • use total control or possessive behaviour to isolate young people from their friends and family
  • are a family member
  • are other youths who are themselves being sexually exploited



A recruiter is an individual, male or female, who actively recruits children and youth for a pimp in return for money or other rewards. Recruiters target children and youth in person or online. Children and youth are also recruited into sexual exploitation by:

  • family members who, for financial gain or to support addictions, may force young people into sexual exploitation and related activities
  • an adult who convinces them that they have a healthy relationship and, in return for sexual activity, meets basic needs (e.g. love, drugs, alcohol, shelter, etc.)
  • a peer group who convinces or pressures them into sexual exploitation activities for the purpose of making money
  • adults or older youth who provide money, drugs and alcohol in exchange for sexual activities at parties
  • individuals involved in pornography who recruit them to engage in sexual acts online or for film


Gangs are involved in sexual exploitation. The Vancouver School Board has a thorough overview of the connection of gangs and sexual exploitation.