Their right to enjoy their childhood and to lead a productive, rewarding and dignified life is seriously compromised.
The sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes can have serious and irreversible consequences threaten the physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development of children, and even their survival.
The most immediate danger which victims face is physical violence from their abusers, including pimps, brothel madams, dealers and customers. There are many horrific testimonies from children who were beaten, kicked, burned with cigarettes and raped for refusing to work.
Children who are commercially sexually exploited are also at great risk of contracting HIV or AIDS and they are even more vulnerable than adults because their tissues and mucous membranes are more fragile. Exploited children are often not in a position to demand the use of condoms and even many of them never received any information about safer sex.
The psychological effects of sexual abuse are more difficult to assess but usually plague children for the rest of their lives.
Children who have been exploited typically report feelings of shame, guilt and low self-esteem. For some of them, they even do not believe they are worthy of rescue. Some suffer from stigmatization or the knowledge that they were betrayed by someone whom they had trusted; others suffer from nightmares, sleeplessness, hopelessness and depression – reactions similar to those exhibited in victims of torture. To cope, some children attempt suicide or turn to drug abuse.
Finally, some others prefer giving a distorted view of their real situation ensuring they chose prostitution and that their pimp is really a loved one who permits them to help their families.
Rehabilitation and Care
Rehabilitation refers to the concept of restoration to a former state. In this case, it means to enable the child to be free from the physical and psychological consequences of their abuse. Rehabilitation of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation is a complex, long, intense and difficult process.
It is said that very few rehabilitation programs have reported any success but if the success of a program means that a child has been "saved" from prostitution being returned to a "normal" life, many disappointments can be feared.
In fact, many child victims of sexual exploitation for commercial purposes continue to work or return later in the sex industry. Even after intensive psychosocial rehabilitation, 15-20% of children still return to CSEC.