I make up 50% of child sex trafficking victims.
I’m not looked for or included in the statistics of anti-trafficking groups. The lack of publicity for my issue makes boy sex trafficking attractive to criminal networks, because they know law enforcement won’t hunt them down. We are the unspoken statistics that fill the pages of sex and pornography magazines.
I am only 13 years old. I know others who start at 11 or 12 years old.
Resources aren’t allocated towards us. We aren’t considered as a “high risk group” to be included in research, outreach, and rehabilitation services. I’m forgotten. I think I actually feel alone. I hate admitting to this vulnerability, and I don’t know if I should feel this way. I’m a man. I’m supposed to be tough. I’m supposed to practice this ideal that the media expects me to abide by. There are too many “I”s in this statement that make me feel there is no one here for me to talk to.
I have a “mama”. She’s my grandma. She tells me I need to work and make money for the household. There’s violence at home, but I’m used to it. I get hit from time to time, but I know how to position myself so the blows won’t hurt as much. Mama doesn’t pay much attention to me unless it has to do with work. I contribute, so I get a place to stay; and when I’m referred to buyers, I get a substantial share of earnings. It’s somewhat “curious” and “fascinating”, but still strange. Is that what boys my age are supposed to do? I don’t know a life other than this. Some boys have told me about the “fee-for-service drive-by-pimp” which has a guy drive his car, ask a boy if he wants to make money for the evening, and then “pimp” him out. I’ve also heard of cases where families “pimp out their boys to support their drug addiction”. It’s a common occurrence to have boys in their late 20s continue to have pimps, and rent an apartment with other boys who work for them in exchange for them to get shelter.
Some of us enter the system as runaways or to escape the criminal justice system. Not a lot of us speak about the past, but brief moments of eye contact show a guarded expression. We’re broken spirits with tales to tell, but with no incentive to tell them.
I am a child. I am boy. One day, I will be a man.
The above was an attempt monologue to share the “day in the life” account of a typical male sex trafficking victim. Boys generally start at a young age; and eventually, there is the high possibility that they will become pimps themselves. This is mostly due to the fact that the “pimp” lifestyle is the only one they’ve known, and one that has influenced their masculinity. These males adopt the same behaviors that influence the cycle that continues through generations.
Male trafficking victims only get attention if the news breaks out as a local or national scandal. Other than that, the attention paid to them is scant. There seems to be a “gender construction” in being a victim. And while Hillary Clinton has famously dubbed “Women’s rights are human rights”, I can’t help but wonder what the public reaction would be if someone said “Men’s rights are human rights”. Public perception pictures girls as victim turned survivor turned leader; in other words, girls have hope for a better future. Boys, on the other hand, aren’t openly received as victims. They are only known to be the perpetrator, and their “normal male behavior” is to purchase sexual acts because that is deemed socially acceptable in terms of masculinity and peer pressure (Yen). Also, they aren’t encouraged to speak out when something happens; they are shunned to the side because of the belief they are more self-efficient and take better care of themselves. Men are put under the cloak of invisibility regarding topics on male sexual exploitation that has them as victims – such as male rape, domestic violence, and trafficking. There are countless of research materials on how to deal with female trafficking victims; but when it comes to male trafficking, the results don’t event count to half the results of female trafficking. When were these gender divisions put into place? What does it mean to have equality and justice when we practice this obvious gender bias in victim-hood?
It’s imperative to have stories of male trafficking on the news and show support. Male survivors can be supported by diminishing the shame factor and telling them that it is not their fault. We shouldn’t approach these men with pity, because that degrades their masculinity and leads into gay baiting. Mental health services should be provided to people who experienced trauma so that they can re-purpose their lives and not pass it down. That way, survivors can step up and become leaders. Survivor led and ran programs are the best as they understand the complexity involved in male trafficking; not only will they be given the confidence boost, but also the initiative for themselves to know and to teach others how to obtain long-term stable housing, education, job-placement, and compassionate behavioral health and medical care.