One boy was trafficked with his mother by her husband and held in captivity for most of his life. Another was lured through video games into a family that forced him to have sexual relations with them and their friends. Yet one more, a foster care runaway, was picked up in the street and offered a place to stay—in exchange for sex.
These cases point to only a drop in the ocean of what many boys go through in the United States. Human trafficking, or “modern-day slavery,” is a broad term used to describe victims of forced labor, sexual exploitation or servitude, and forced marriages, among numerous other abuses. Trafficking is a problem that affects both genders, but many argue that among the victims, all aren’t receiving an equal amount of attention.
Boys who fall victim to human trafficking in the United States make up as much as 40 to 45 percent of the total victim population in some cities, studies have indicated. Despite this, men are severely neglected in an already hidden problem when it comes to resources, services, and public awareness campaigns—which focus predominantly on women.
Boys and men make up a “significant portion” of human trafficking victims, both in the United States and internationally, according to a 2019 annual report from the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. But due to them being overlooked, “many men and boys do not identify as victims or request services,” the report found.
The advisory council referred to a 2010 piece that tracked 222 institutions at the time that received funding from the government. Of those, only two were dedicated to combating the trafficking of males.
Interviews by The Epoch Times of trafficking experts—one a victim himself—reveal a stark imbalance of attention from each sector of society. Experts say male victims are ignored not only by the mass media but by law enforcement as well, contributing to the overall lack of care. Many have expressed outrage at the apathy.
There are also vast differences in how to handle cases. For example, girls often develop Stockholm syndrome—a trauma bond where they fall in love with their abusers—something that doesn’t usually happen with boys.