Two years ago, I wrote about The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in New York City study conducted by the John Jay College of New York. The study found that about 50% of the commercially sexually exploited children in New York City are boys. The study’s results, however, led to little change. The results were ignored, and boys continued to find few resources to help him.
Recently, ECPAT-USA released a discussion paper on the matter of the commercial sexually exploitation of boys. And Boys Too addresses the findings from the John Jay College study as well as other studies that found boys are a larger portion of sex trafficking victims than previously thought.
Some of the findings mentioned in the paper include the reasons why few boys come forward:
Contributing factors to why CSE boys and young men are not getting identified or served.
The unwillingness of boys to self-identify as sexually exploited due to shame and stigma about being gay or being perceived as gay by family and community.
A lack of screening and intake by law enforcement and social services agencies rooted in the belief that boys are not victims of CSE.
Limited outreach by anti-trafficking organizations to areas, venues and tracks known for male prostitution.
Oversimplification of the reality that boys are not generally pimped hides the needs and misinforms potential services.
Simply put, no one bothers to ask boys if they have been sexually exploited. When boys do come forward or are discovered by law enforcement, they are not referred to support agencies. Law enforcement assumes that boys can fend for themselves or are, as one officer put it, “sex addicts.” In the rare instances where boys do seek support or are referred, few services will accept them. The paper noted this in particular:
Although key informants without exception said they believed that CSE boys and young men existed in their community, only a small minority is willing and able to serve them. One FBI staff person called an agency to house seven CSE boys found in a sting. The spokesperson of the agency, which serves girls, said she did not know where those boys went and knew of no agencies in her area that serve boys.
Of the 40 informants contacted, 18 reported they would serve boys. Of 37 who have provided traffic-specific services, 15 said they are willing and able to serve CSEB and 10 already have provided services to boys. Looking only at organizations specifically focused on commercially sexually exploited children, the numbers are even lower: Only four out of 25 will serve boys and only two organizations have provided services to more than five CSEB.
Reasons for the unwillingness or inability to serve boys include:
Programs are already filled or over capacity with girls
Boys are not identified and/or referred by law enforcement, other social service organizations, public and/or agency outreach, nor do they self-refer
They rarely receive referrals for or calls from boys and do not see a significant need
They feel ill-prepared and need more training regarding CSE boys
Boys and young men are heretofore reported not to be pimped. Therefore, entering prostitution through different pathways they may have different needs The agency has a gender-specific curriculum that is focused on girls
The paper also points out that many of the services do not have male outreach workers. More male workers, particularly those with knowledge about what the boys experienced, would likely help in the outreach.
The paper concludes with a list of recommendations similar to those listed in the John Jay College study. Suggesting that people recognize sexually exploited boys, actually ask boys about their experiences, stop making assumptions about their sexuality, and opening up currently female-only services to boys seem like obvious no-brainers. However, they need to be stated and listed because apparently few people take the commercial sexual exploitation of boys seriously.
Whether any changes come as a result of the discussion paper is questionable. The John Jay College study brought little change. Instead, people tried to bury the results. We must see if ECPAT-USA can get a better response.