Written by STOPP Website Staff (11/06/2017)

Although we often focus on women and girls when we speak of sexual trafficking, we are aware that this happens to boys and male youth, as well. The following information is taken from an article written by Steven Procopio at Youth Today. Mr. Procopio emphasizes that often, law enforcement, courts, social services and others who work with sexually trafficked victims do not see the boys as victims, but as possible or future perpetrators.

We need to be more aware of the background that leads boys into sexual exploitation, and be aware of their needs, as well. The male victims have much in common with their trafficked sisters, including being at risk youth. They often experience lack of adult guidance, lack of a caring adult in childhood, and poor educational and occupational opportunities. According to a study commissioned by Covenant House, 78% of responders stated that they were first survivors of sexual abuse and/or other traumas. Like girls who are trafficked, their childhoods often included sexual abuse, broken homes and homes with domestic violence, gangs in the neighborhood, runaway behavior, poverty, family substance abuse history, and time in the foster system.

Like the girls, these boys are often depressed, anxious, and engage in self-mutilation. They experience sleep disturbance, eating disorders, and difficulties in maintaining intimate relationships. They are often suicidal and truant. More than the trafficked girls, the boys are often involved with the criminal justice system, set fires, and engage in more risk-taking behavior.

As boys and male youth are sent away from their family homes for being gay, bisexual, or transgender, they are at high risk for being commercially sexually exploited to meet their survival needs. A 2001 study indicated that most of the data in the field emphasizes the plight of GBTQ youth, but their research indicates that most sexually exploited youth are heterosexual.

In a Boston study, boys were less likely to be involved with a pimp, and more likely to be involved with a club manager, and/or they came into commercial sex through their families. However, we now know that pimps are diversifying their “services” to include various populations, including girls and boys, trans youth, youth of color, etc.

Like they do with girls and women, some pimps house the boys. But also, there are pimps who connect with a youth on the street and rather than taking the youth into his permanent “stable,” he will ask the boy if he is interested in making money that evening, drive the youth to an area where the youth preforms sexually, and then the youth is brought back. The boy may not see that pimp again, but may be picked up by other pimps who are also fee-for-service.

We are less aware of the needs of boys and young men partially due to the unwillingness of boys to self-identify as victims due to their own concerns about the perception of others about their sexual orientation. Also, law enforcement and anti-trafficking workers are less likely to consider boys as victims. Due to their involvement with the law, boys are often not seen as victims, but as offenders, and so they are often moved to the criminal justice community and do not receive the help that they need.

Boys who responded to researchers noted that their greatest needs are for safe housing, educational and occupational opportunities and training, compassionate and non-judgmental health care providers, and long-term behavioral health care from providers well-trained to work with this population.

To read the entire article, written June 20, 2017, click here: http://youthtoday.org/2017/06/more-awareness-needed-about-boys-who-are-commercially-sexually-exploited