By Josie Heyano – ANCHOR Navigator and Mentor Liaison
It’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In an effort to spread more awareness, we want to talk about the often forgotten male survivors of trafficking and debunk a few misconceptions of trafficking.
Just like young females, we know that young males are exploited at high rates; however, they are recovered at a fraction of the rates of females. Criminal cases against their traffickers are prosecuted at even lower rates than females.
Why does this happen? The core of the issue is the way people subconsciously perceive a young female versus a male in a trafficking situation.
First of all, young males are more likely to be seen as more in control of their trafficking situation. For example, they are often found posting their own photos online whereas a young female is usually advertised by a pimp. Young males are also more likely to be seen as “complicit” in their trafficking. People will assume that they are “enjoying” the sexual component of their situation simply because they’re male.
Overall, males are less likely to be viewed as victims. They’re more likely to be seen as sexually deviant for the same trafficking situation in which a female is deemed a victim.
Misconceptions aside – what does a common trafficking situation look like for a young man?
Many males recovered from trafficking situations were left vulnerable after being rejected by their guardian because of their sexual orientation. The heartbreaking truth is that when these LGBTQ boys are forced out of their childhood homes and understandably walk straight into the welcoming arms of someone who “accepts” them for their sexual identity, this person holds a lot of power over the young male. In a common trafficking situation, this person inevitably confronts the young adult with a money issue and propositions him for help.
People don’t tend to think of traffickers as women; however, often times, the young male is coerced by a woman who leverages a maternal bond. In some ways, this sort of bond can be harder to break than the romantic relationship bond that traffickers tend to leverage with young females.
We at Covenant House Alaska firmly believe that our tactics to end human trafficking must include tools and language that are oriented to empowering both our young women and men out of their trafficking situations.
Young males are harder to place into after care services because of these harmful stigmas. We must be more open to talking about the truths of males and trafficking so that they can be equally set up for success.
Information in this post is sourced from a webinar called: “Boys: The Forgotten Sex Trafficking Victims” by the National Criminal Justice Training Center of Fox Valley Technical College.
Resources we recommend for educating yourself further about human trafficking: