Myth: Sex trafficking only happens to women and girls.
Reality: Sex trafficking happens frequently to boys too.
In a previous blog post, we discussed the statistic that 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys are sexually abused before they turn 18. We also know that those who have been previously sexually abused are more vulnerable to trafficking. So, you might be asking yourself:
Does that mean boys are vulnerable to trafficking too?
But because trafficking has been portrayed as a “women’s issue” for so long, we haven’t been trained to look for male victims and survivors. Boys may also feel shame because of the stigma that only women and girls are trafficked. This shame likely prevents them from seeking help or coming forward as a victim. Thus, statistics on how many boys are trafficked are practically nonexistent.
Last fall, our Program Coordinator and Communication Coordinator attended Shared Hope’s JuST Conference to be better equipped to respond to juvenile sex trafficking. At the conference they heard survivor stories from men who were trafficked in their childhood and teenage years. These boys could have gotten help, but went unrecognized by those who interacted with them.
Although we don’t know how many boys are trafficked, we do know how boys commonly respond to sexual abuse, which can can help us identify possible victims of trafficking. While girls tend to respond to sexual abuse internally by dissociating, boys tend to respond to sexual abuse externally by fighting or fleeing. Boys may act out with aggression, anger, and physical or verbal bullying.
If you notice a sudden change in a boy’s behavior such as this, it does not necessarily mean that he is being trafficked or sexually abused, but you can use this resource from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) to help you identify warning signs, talk to the child, and go through the process of reporting abuse.
You can be a part of protecting young boys and helping those who have experienced exploitation by looking out for these warning signs and by joining us in spreading the word that sex trafficking is not just a “women’s issue”.