Media attention, resources, and education primarily focuses on women who have experienced sex trafficking in the United States. And while there are many females who are being trafficked, there is an alarming number of men who are being trafficked too.
One study done in 2016, showed that one-third of youth who were being trafficked, were male (1). A federal study that same year showed that again, one-third of homeless youth who were male had experienced exploitation and trafficking (2). The reality is that these numbers are likely low, and the actual number of male trafficking victims is much higher, because males often do not disclose, and most are not recognized as victims of trafficking.
Part of it is perception. In our society, we typically deem women as victims and men as perpetrators; and rarely give credence to the fact that men could be victims as well. A lot of males also struggle to identify themselves as victims, which makes it less likely that they will disclose.
Many boys are coerced into trafficking, the same way that girls are. They meet a stranger online who coerces nudes out of them and then blackmails them into sex acts for money. Or they have run from abusive homes and feel they have no choice, but to trade sex for a place to sleep or food. Traffickers are targeting males who are vulnerable, struggle with substance abuse, who identify as LGBTQIA+, and/or have experienced childhood sexual abuse and trauma.
Because there are many more male victims of sex trafficking (not to mention labor trafficking) than previously considered, there remains a huge gap in services. Male specific safe homes, residential programs, and trauma informed services are far and few between, with many states not having any for male survivors.
This is a tragedy.
REHOPE Youth is one of the few places in the Midwest that provides services to boys who have experienced exploitation or trafficking.
For more information check out- RH Youth | Serving children victims of human and sex trafficking. (rehope.org)