By: Joshua Kaina
Can strong, seemingly healthy boys become victims of sex-trafficking victimization?
While the answer is yes, many people struggle to connect with that truth. Although females make up the vast majority of sex-trafficking victims, reports have come out in the last two decades showing that boys are also being trafficked at alarming rates.
A 2008 study* showed that most scholarly discussions failed to acknowledge male sex workers. Young men were thought to be willing participants due to homosexuality or sexual addiction. Therefore, identifying male victims was far and few.
A discussion paper by ECPAT-USA* revealed that many male victims fall through the cracks of the criminal justice system. Male victims are under-reported because most law enforcement officers are trained to identify the stereotypical female sex trafficking victim. Many didn’t believe boys could be pimped, which they in fact, are.
One witness from the ECPAT paper shared a conversation he had with law enforcement officers. In response to a 15-year old male found in a motel trafficking sting, one officer referred to him as a “sex addict” and another officer said he [the victim] was “just doing it for the money”. These conversations exposed the reality of why male victims are going unnoticed. Our current culture tends to identify men as the sole offenders or consumers of the sex trade. Although that may be true for some, it does not reflect true for the whole. Innocent boys are slipping through the system because of outdated perceptions.
Nationally, boys makeup one-third of sex trafficking victims.*
In Hawaii, 23% of sex trafficked participants in a study were male and 64% were all or part Native Hawaiian.*
These numbers are likely a poor reflection of the truth because so many go undocumented. Also, if boys are found to be victims, the shelter and support services for them are lacking GLOBALLY. There are very few shelters or non profit organizations that focus solely on male victims. Bob’s House of Hope in DFW, Texas was the first of its kind, helping 1,700 individuals find transformation so far.
It is also important to note that another false perception of male sex-trafficking victims is that they are all LGBTQ+ identifying. This stigma contributes to the hesitancy of male victims to come forward for fear of shame by their peers or families. The majority of victims as reported in many studies are in fact heterosexual identifying although they may have same-sex clientele.
If you have never considered the fact that boys and young men can become victims of sex trafficking, I hope this helped to shed some light. Our goal in 2023 is to release a needed publication on how boys can protect themselves from sex- trafficking, entitled Brave and Bold. Teenage boys must be equipped on how to avoid sex-trafficking victimization AND also be empowered with the resolve to avoid becoming the consumer or offender.
Thank you for being a part of this movement!
Michele and Staff
P.S. We launched our website for the Brave and Beautiful publication to protect girls from sex-trafficking victimization, go to www.braveandbeautiful.world