By: Janice Tjeng
50% of sexually exploited victims are males. However, this fact is often overlooked due to the following reasons.
Firstly, it is because of the social stigma towards males as victims of sexual exploitation. Summar Ghias, a program specialist for the Chicago-based International Organization for Adolescents, mentions that anti-trafficking movements primarily identify victims as females. Moreover, law enforcements often see males as the perpetrators while females as the victims due to gender bias.
Secondly, it is due to the fact that male prostitution is regarded merely as homosexuality. People don’t see these males as victims but mistakenly think that it is because of their sexual preference. However, Steven Pricopio, the program coordinator of Surviving Our Struggle, an after care center for male trafficking victims, states that most male trafficking youths are heterosexual.
The fact is that male victims come from the same background as female victims. They are often raised in broken families with a history of neglect and abuse. According to Pricopio, at least 70% of them have experienced sexual abuse when they were young. As a result, some of them chose to leave their homes. LGBTQ youths are more likely to be kicked out of their homes due to their gender identity. Once on the streets, they are preyed on for their vulnerability and are lured into prostitution by pimps or by peer influence through incentives. Boys are sold and bought through online websites such as backpage.com and offline revenues such as clubs and bars.
Despite the injustice they face, male victims are unwilling to speak up due to feelings of shame and stigma. Some use prostitution as a means of livelihood and they don’t see themselves as victims. There is also a lack of aftercare services for male victims due to the lack of awareness about their victimization. Moreover, it is difficult for shelters and organizations to get funding because there is no concrete numbers on male trafficking. According to a national anti-trafficking organization based in New York, only 4 out of the 25 shelters for sexually exploited children serve boys. In addition, some male victims have difficulty finding long-term housing options due to the lack of services. As a result, some are left on the streets, which make them vulnerable to re-exploitation.
Janice Tjeng is a third year Biology major at the University of San Francisco. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine. She looks forward to applying to medical school where she can learn the skills to provide healthcare for disadvantaged people.
Chin, Yu Sun. “Trafficked Boys Overlooked.” Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, April 14 2014. http://jjie.org/trafficked-boys-overlooked-underrepresented/. Date accessed, April 30, 2015.
Image Source: Thorn Survivor Survey