a1 Department of Anthropology, John Jay College of the City University of New York E-mail: [email protected]
a2 Department of Anthropology, John Jay College of the City University of New York E-mail: [email protected]
In the United States, the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) has been one of the principal foci in the fight against human trafficking during the past decade with billions of dollars spent and hundreds of thousands of helping professionals trained in anti-trafficking best practices. Despite this attention, prosecutions, convictions and rescues have been scarce relative to funding, leading critical scholars to argue that CSEC is a moral panic. The following article, based on fourteen months of participant-observation between 2009 and 2010 with social service providers, law enforcement officials, not-for-profit directors and local clergy from a voluntary participation federal anti-trafficking taskforce in Atlantic City, New Jersey provides an ethnographic account of the ways that helping professionals confront the challenges and contradictions of implementing policy and advocating for an invisible target population that is rarely, if ever, visible in their work lives.