The Lost Boys: Exploring the Experience of Male Victims of Sexual Abuse, Trafficking, and Exploitation in the Westernized World.
by Simone Stevens (10th Grade Personal Project Essay)
“Understanding sexual exploitation can be very challenging, but now more than ever, we need to try harder to understand it”
Carol McNaughton Nicholls, Senior Research Director at NatCen Social Research
The masses love controversy. We have gossip magazines, TV shows, books, movies and about any other form of media that one can think of, devoted to it. We like hearing about other people’s problems, and their conflicts. It is typically associated with the classic housewife, but in truth, practically everyone gossips. There is a forbidden pleasure in knowing someone else’s secrets and sharing them that most cannot resist. Yet, there is a limit to what people are prepared to hear about, that goes beyond what the networks are willing to show. Even news networks, the place the public goes to hear about pressing influential issues, have instituted restrictions on what they are broadcasting. It’s not that there are no problems, it is that segments about local petting zoos will get higher ratings and more views than a topic that makes people truly uncomfortable. The result of an oblivious public is apathy or a reluctance to believe that anything unexpected and internal could be wrong. It is human nature to want to otherize problems, to visualize criminals as vastly different and unrelated to one’s self. To learn about real issues, to hear personal accounts from victims of crime, takes people so far out of their comfort zone or moral tolerance that many unacceptable instances of violence fall under the radar. One such case is the sexual abuse of males. It’s hard enough to deal with female victims and the consequent social connotations, but it’s nearly impossible for the public to have a meaningful discussion about male victims. As a result, a sizable portion of victims of sexual abuse are left to fend for themselves.
In our society, we like to think of men as pillars of strength and domination. Whatever societal changes there have been, that image is as prominent now as it has been all throughout history. In relationships, males are expected to be the aggressors. They're the one asking out the girl, and they’re the one initiating all sexual relations. Thus, because of society's perception, skewed by this stereotype and by personal experience, men are viewed as libidinous. Most people, including men themselves, think that males are perpetually ready and willing to be aroused. That consequence of that assumption is the conclusion that any coital contact upon a male will be unconditionally consensual. A concept strengthened by the increasingly erotic themes in popular media. However, it’s precisely that which contributes to a societal negligence and scorn directed towards male victims of sexual abuse. There have been cases when a male has stepped forward and then been shamed into silence after being told he couldn't possibly have been sexually victimized. In terms of social stigma, minors face less antipathy, but only very slightly. It’s easier to believe that a little boy could have been hurt, but even then, he has to face a backlash that his female counterparts do not. The belief that sexual assault doesn’t happen to men and boys is exacerbated by these stereotypes of the male gender or the general misinformation of male abuse. Certainly, due to this negligence, countless abusers will molest or sexually exploit victims for years and years without intervention. After all, who is the boy going to tell when the person who is hurting him is a police officer, doctor, or teacher? In recent times, society has taken a look at its own actions regarding sexual assault. However, society’s inner cognition has reached a plateau when it comes to male victims, as its reactions are misguided or misinformed. With approximately 1 in 6 boys being sexually abused before the age of eighteen, we have an unseen epidemic that we need to address (Department of Justice).
It is certain that anyone with a conscience, when faced with the subject of human trafficking, will feel a great deal of empathy. Perhaps it’s the realization that we too, in other circumstances, could be coerced into slavery, that makes the situation so terrifying and sad. For much of my life I was aware, in the vague sense of the word, that many faced the harsh reality of human trafficking. Yet, that emotion was detached and clinical, almost mandatory. My individual reaction to the issue was dependent on the great social consciousness our morals so usually rely upon. I knew that it was a horrible situation to be in, but human trafficking had never substantially affected my life. Neither I, nor any of my acquaintances, had ever faced such circumstance. I could not grasp the gravity of a victim’s situation. Thus, when I considered the issue of human trafficking, I knew that it would be interesting to learn more about it, but I did not feel too strongly that it was a subject I particularly needed to explore. However, I conducted some preliminary research on the matter and as I delved into such websites as Humantrafficking.org, I began to look closer at individual personal accounts. Both victims and perpetrators showed the potential humans had, both to commit harm and to withstand harm committed against them. Stories of sexual exploitation had the biggest emotional impact on me, and I began to look into websites devoted to victims of sexual abuse. The more I discovered about the subject, the more I came to notice something that the preponderance of all language, when referring to victims, said either “women” or “children” while talking about those at risk. To me, it seemed like the focus of most resources were females. I became quite preoccupied with the subsequent questions: are females really that incommensurately affected that it is justified that their male equivalent receives such scant mention? What resources are really out there for males? Are those resources effective? Fortunately, I happened on a fascinating source by the title Real Stories Gallery Foundation, where boys at risk from around the world can showcase poems, videos, and images, giving a taste of what life is like for them. Their accounts are striking and have a bleak, unapologetic honesty to them. With it, I investigated the dark realities a male minor faces during and after sexual violence. After deliberation, I realized that this was something I had a true passion for and needed to raise awareness of. To begin my examination, I contacted the Social Anthropologist and founder of Real Stories Gallery Foundation, Dr. Rachel Chapple. She readily agreed to be interviewed, and our subsequent talk was very informative. A lot of her knowledge came from working in direct contact with these boys, so her perspective was unique. Succeedingly, as I was interested in getting a legal perspective on the matter, I contacted the San Leandro Chief of Police, Sandra Spagnoli. She directed me to the officer that I ultimately interviewed, Matthew Barajas. Though he didn’t have ample experience with juvenile male victims, he could elaborate on some of the infrastructure behind making arrests of sexual predators. That information facilitated a glimpse of the victim’s experience, besides the abuse itself. Following the interviews, I did more research and was able to get a sense of the deeper issues surrounding the whole affair. In result, I’ve concluded that the existing conditions of sexually abused, exploited, and trafficked adolescent males arises from a lack of efficacious intervention, care, and attention they require.
The first concern one must investigate to truly understand the situation and why this cause isn’t getting the attention it deserves, is the profile of the victims themselves and some common themes. While boys have many motivations for why they engage in prostitution or more accurately in these cases, survival sex work, the overwhelming reason is poverty (Chapple interview). The act of survival sex work is a means to provide for oneself the basic needs of life. For many, it is the only way to access necessities like “... protection... shelter ...[or] food” (Chapple Interview). The majority of these boys do not receive support from their legal guardians. In fact, “most boy prostitutes come from broken homes; have been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused and have experienced school failure” (Flowers 62). For a boy to feel like he must sell his body for money to survive, there must be a great deal of negligence and dysfunction on the part of those who are legally obligated to protect him. After all, “If it takes a community to raise a child, it also takes a community to abuse one so that whenever a minor is sexually violated, someone’s eyes are closed” (FrawleyOedea). For example the odds of participating in survival sex were increased “for youths who had been victimized, those who had participated in criminal behaviors, those who had attempted suicide, [and] those who had had an STD...” (Greene, Ennett and, Ringwalt). It’s likely that victim’s criminal activity was borne out of the urgency that forced them into survival sex work. When a boy’s guardians are so neglectful, he must go to great lengths to get by, so the boys quickly realize that there are no benefits in staying at home. They will often chose to run away and then be forced into an even more dire situation, such as survival sex; Hence, “the majority of male juvenile prostitutes are runaways” (Flowers 62). Abuse has huge negative ramifications. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable are often the ones who fall victim to it. As they are looked at as easy targets, younger victims are especially at risk. It’s so exaggerated that “the mean and median ages of first sexual abuse were 9.8 years and 10 years, and 58% of boys were younger than 11 years” (Holmes, William, and Slap). Even more worrying, another demographic who are exposed to a disproportionate amount of sexual exploitation are disabled children, as they “develop at different rates” (Parents Protect). Handicapped children’s lack of physical or mental maturity mean they have a hard time defending themselves or getting help. This makes them an ideal target for abuse. To be sure, the lack of current protection for these underprivileged minors leads to a great deal of opportunity for sexual abuse. On the other hand, some factors that increase a boy’s likelihood to be a victim stem from external variables. Much of this exacerbated risk is familial. This could be the result of ‘living with only 1 or neither parent; parental divorce, separation, or remarriage; parental alcohol abuse; and parental criminal behavior”, as well as “poverty, lack of education, serious marital problems, frequent changes of addresses, violence between family members, lack of support from the extended family, loneliness and social isolation, unemployment, [and] inadequate housing” (Holmes, William, and Slap; Department of Human Services). It is in these cases where the abuse is exacerbated or even created by systemic issues. And so, to prevent the violence from recurring, an essential requisite is a total upheaval of all underlying problems. Which is particularly challenging when the issues are as intrinsic as poverty or a widespread lack of education.
While the male and female experience of sexual exploitation contains similarities, it differs in consequential ways. No matter what gender one is, the atrocity of sexual abuse or exploitation is a formidable ordeal. All genders face the challenge of coming to terms with what has happened to them, as well as navigating a difficult route if they choose to seek legal retribution against abusers.Those who have been abused as children also face another unique set of hurdles, due to a loss of childhood. When a child is abused it may interfere with relationships or experiences other kids would have had easier access to. Still, there are some variations in the gender’s exposure that alter it overall. The most powerful presence in the victim's life, the perpetrator, has statistical differences when comparing male and female victims. Surprisingly, “boys — and especially adolescent boys — are more likely than girls to have a female perpetrator” (Cashmore and Shackel). In practice, “while girls are more likely to experience abuse involving their biological fathers, stepfathers and other male relatives within the family home, boys are more likely to experience extra-familial abuse in the offender’s home, institution or in a public place” (Cashmore and Shackel). This phenomenon is quite mysterious and could be due to a number of factors, including the level of intimacy between both parties, potential familial intervention, as well as the risk of conflict. This risk of conflict is particularly pronounced for males “as the sexual abuse of boys may involve more violence and physical harm, and that adolescent boys are more likely than girls to be victimised by multiple perpetrators” (Cashmore and Shackel). In addition, “boys have been found to be more likely than girls to experience repeated penetrative acts, oral intercourse, analgenital contact and masturbation” (Cashmore and Shackel). These differences may well be critical in how survivors are properly supported through the disclosure process, any investigation and prosecution that might follow, and access to appropriate services for those who have and have not told anyone of their abuse.
The pedophiles who commit these despicable crimes against male children are very diverse in terms of age and gender; yet, there are some correlations in motivation, specific demographics, and other categories. The motivation to hurt children in such an evil way is certainly a complicated one with many constituents. Per contra, it is possible to decipher some of the most powerful components. Firstly, “pedophiles have a strong, almost irresistible, desire to have sex with children. The average pedophile molests 260 victims during their lifetime. Over 90% of convicted pedophiles are arrested again for the same offense after their release from prison” (Yellow Dyno). The abuser has overwhelming desires to sexually exploit these boys and because they have abused children so often, many of them have become proficient at being “exquisitely attuned to the emotional and relational needs of potential victims” (FrawleyOedea). In reality, “meta-analysis estimates that 14% of sexual offenders commit another sexual offense after five years, 24% after fifteen years” (National Center for Victims of Crime). This would grant latent child abusers ample occasion to hone their heinous craft. Many of these offenders find manipulating victims elementary, as they already personally know the boy. Verily, “only 14% of children who suffered sexual abuse were violated by an unknown perpetrator” (National Center for Victims of Crime). For minors specifically, many of the aggressors are family members. With family members making up “almost half (49%) of the offenders of victims under age 6..., 42% of the offenders who sexually assaulted youth ages 6 through 11, and 24% of offenders who sexually assaulted juveniles ages 12 through 17”, relatives were “more likely” to be “the offenders of younger children” than “older victims”(Snyder). This could be due to ample contact with vulnerable children, paired with such a sinecure. Sadly, though abuse from a close associate is the most common form, it’s actually more detrimental to a victim as the “effects are generally worse when it was a parent, step-parent or trusted adult than a stranger” (Hopper). Likely, these heightened effects result from not only the occurrence of abuse, but the loss of trust and safety that goes along with it. Unfortunately, this defilement is a reality for many. It’s an experience that those of all walks of life face. It is not a crime truly segregated by any demographic, though in the US “the three largest percentages of perpetrators were of White (48.9 %), African-American (19.9%), and Hispanic (18.9%)” (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services). As factors like poverty and unemployment, that contribute to sexual abuse, have empirically been felt most acutely by minorities, there seems to be a disproportionate amount of Caucasian offenders. Recently, with the development of the internet, offenders’ access to children has become even more impossible to regulate. Perpetrators are able to take on pseudonyms and lure unsuspecting kids into meeting them or even get the kids to send them explicit pictures. On that note, child pornography has also seen a dramatic increase in production since the introduction of modern technology like computers, digital cameras, and cell phones. There are websites, forums, and chatrooms for pedophiles who are looking to share their content. As child pornography is very lucrative, while remaining very low risk as their chances of getting caught are low, many use children as a way to make a profit. Pedophiles capitalize on the fact that it is hard to regulate explicit images and are able to keep on abusing children and making money. While many governments are trying to curtail the creation and distribution of pornagraphic material of minors, it is incredibly difficult. This is due not only to the size and complexity of the internet but also having to be conscious of various privacy laws. Another category for perpetrators is their gender. Whatever sex they are, offenders can be hugely damaging on a child's mental and physical health as “among male victims of CSA [child sexual abuse], the risk of negative outcomes was similar when the gender of the perpetrator was compared. Thus, perpetration of CSA by a female appears to exert negative effects that are similar in magnitude to CSA perpetrated by males” (Dube, et al). It is incredibly onerous to have to deal with sexual abuse, no matter what gender the offender. However, while both genders abuse, it is commonly thought that “the overwhelming majority of abusers are male” (Department of Human Services). That idea has been called into question recently, as many are considering the empirical observation that females do not commit sexual abuse as a possible overgeneralization. This could relate back to that societal belief that men are the initiators during sexual contact. In some cases, when a female sexually abuses a male adolescent, it will be looked at as a right of passage or that the boy is lucky to have sex with a woman. This belief is very harmful to the male, especially later in life because “for many men the helplessness they experienced seemed to generalize to other domains of their lives. Particularly for the men who were abused by adult women, the helplessness characterized their [other/future] sexual encounters with women” (Lisak). This type of lasting effect is unique to victims who are attracted to the same gender as their perpetrator. For them, coitus can feel like reliving their trauma. Though early child abuse only aggravates this issue, women were most likely to sexually abuse those under the age of 6 than any other age (Snyder). This creates extra romantic relationship development concerns for those victims. Another demographic that many don’t think abuse children, actually make up a large portion of the perpetrators. Disturbingly, “more than a third of those who sexually abuse children are under the age of 18 themselves” (Stop It Now!). These young offenders unknowingly contribute to the overall problem as “4080% of juvenile sex offenders have themselves been victims of sexual abuse” (National Center for Victims of Crime), which leads to a cycle of sexual abuse, as those who were abused go out and abuse others. The other juvenile perpetrators, those who have not been abused, are often exploring their sexuality or taking bullying to the next level. It is very hard to ascertain when a child is sexually abusing a peer or sibling, as “it can be difficult to tell the difference between age appropriate sexual exploration and warning signs of harmful behaviour “ (Parents Protect). To see common correlations between perpetrators, one must not look very hard, but it is important to understand that just because someone doesn’t fit the usual mold of an abuser, doesn’t mean they can’t be one.
Another problem males face is how sexuality plays a part in their experiences, the public's response, and their recovery from sexual abuse. Sex, and therefore sexuality, has been sensationalized and commercialized. The common phrase “sex sells” sums it up nicely. It’s understandable that because sex has been so flagrantly and routinely forced into media, those misrepresentative portrayals become the norm when thinking about sexuality. In the context of children though, especially those who were victims of child abuse, these models are wrong. A lot of the conversations being held about the sexual abuse against males “have been informed by adults’ sexuality. Those notions are actually inappropriate because we’re talking about the abuse of children. It doesn't matter what their sexuality is; the abuse is still unacceptable. When it comes to boys, people are influenced by how they feel about male on male sex acts” (Rebecca Interview). To have sensitive and effective solutions, it is crucial to talk about the subject in terms that make it clear that the victim is not the one to blame. The act of bringing sexuality into the topic of abuse is synonymous with saying that the victim is, at least partially, culpable. This effect is worsened when the boy is actually a member of the LGBT+ community. In the context of juvenile prostitution, many boys will turn to survival sex work after having been thrown out of their house for being LGBT+ (Chapple Interview). They then have to face homophobia in the institutions that are supposed to be helping them. Even if they don’t identify as LGBT+ before doing sex work, during or after, “a lot of young people who are working in the sex work field identify as bisexual because it’s a way of expressing both their personal sexual preferences and the sex work that they’re doing” (Barnhart). The boys, in order to cope, feel as if they must hide or try to change an integral part of themselves. They would then face the same institutional barriers that all other LGBT+ youth have to deal with. On the other hand, even if the boy is heterosexual, as the clinical psychologist and co-founder of 1in6 Dr David Lisak stresses, “many investigators have noted the pervasive concerns among sexually abused men about their sexual orientation” (Lisak). Being abused by the same gender makes them question their sexuality or even place blame on it, as “their internalized badness focused on their sexuality, as though it was primarily responsible for their victimization” (Lisak). This fear that “they themselves were, or had the potential to be, homosexual” manifested itself through external symptoms, such as “a fear of homosexuals and homosexuality” (Lisak). Indisputably, the sexuaility of a victim should not play a factor in his access to resources or even enter the conversation at all, unless to offer individualised aid.
After being sexually exploited, a victim often faces many challenges to the well being of his psyche and physical health that are exacerbated by societal apathy. On the road to recovery a male will face misconceptions that make it hard to move on, namely, the malentendu that all victims will go on to abuse others. While it is true that some men will later attempt “to ‘prove’ their masculinity by having multiple female sexual partners, sexually victimizing others, and/or engaging in dangerous or violent behaviors” (Hopper), “being sexually victimized absolutely does not mean a child will develop sexually abusive behaviors. Most children who are sexually abused never sexually harm another child” (Stop It Now!). The reason why the cycle of abuse sometimes takes place is that “without treatment, a child who has been sexually abused may be more vulnerable to being... confused about which behaviors are appropriate” (Stop It Now!). One way to think about it is, the majority of juvenile sex offenders have been abused, but the majority of those who have been abused will not go on to become juvenile sex offenders. Actually, the statistics are even more promising for those who have been abused when referring to adults, ex-perpetrators, as “most sex-offenders were not sexually or physically abused as children. In one study of 114 convicted rapists, 91% denied experiencing childhood sexual abuse; 66% denied experiencing childhood physical abuse; and 50% admitted to having non-violent childhoods” (Scully). To be sure, “child abuse, in itself, does not ‘doom’ people to lives of horrible suffering” (Hopper). Unquestionably, though misconceptions are harmful, it’s the effects from the abuse itself that most victims find the hardest to deal with. The biggest negative impacts are on their emotional well-being and psyche. Years after the abuse, many victims expressed overwhelming feelings that made it hard to function. One that many describe is anger, they delineate “the feeling of being overwhelmed with rage, being afraid of their anger, of suppressing it, and of discovering its existence... For some it seemed to conflict with their view of themselves, to make them see themselves in a less favourable light. Others expressed their fear of their violent fantasies or of long control of their anger... Some men actively tried to suppress it... However, control and suppression does not always work... Some men describe ‘snapping’... resulting in violence” (Lisak). That anger probably, in part, stems from betrayal, another common emotion. The feeling of betrayal comes from the “disappointment stemming from a parent or someone they trust failing to protect them” (Lisak). Victims are also struck by an acute fear “pervading their lives”(Lisak). The “fear could be a dull ever present reality, or a dazzling experience of abject terror... [the] effects of fear [are] alienating them, confining them, and undermining [their] self confidence” (Lisak). An additional emotion victims endured was isolation, categorized as an “ingrained feeling of inferiority, interfer[ing] with the survivor's ability to seek and accept intimacy with others... The men described a sequence, from the abuse to the internalization of the stigma, to the alienation from their peers, that became unbridgeable” (Lisak). This naturally occurring seclusion was furthered because the men were grappling with other issues like the legitimacy of their abuse. Lugubriously, “many of the men struggled to acknowledge that they were in fact abused, and that the abuse had greatly affected them… Either they were abused and the abuse is responsible for the stress they had been experiencing, or, that are fabricating or exaggerating the abuse to mask the inherent deficiencies in themselves which are responsible for their difficulties” (Lisak). The victim is told that the abuse is their fault and that they’re are dirty or corrupted and that no one will believe them. Indeed, “a lot of times victims are lied to, made to feel comfortable around the suspects, or even brainwashed to make them believe that what’s happening isn't illegal” (Barajas Interview). All this makes the victim feel as if he can’t tell anyone of his abuse or that others will blame him for it. This isolation, even after the abuse had stopped, was sometimes actually a way to protect themselves. Some like to put up a wall between themselves and others, especially romantically. One way that men do this is by working at making their bodies unattractive. They suffer from eating disorders because they will “work to become very fat or very thin as a way to render themselves unattractive. It is their attempt to desexualize themselves and thus become more protected from sexual feelings or memories” (Cohen). Some will actually go in the opposite direction and will “diet obsessively, starve, or purge to make their bodies ‘perfect’. This is their attempt to feel more powerful, invulnerable, and in control, so as not to re-experience the powerlessness they felt as children" (Cohen). Engaging in survival sex comes with it’s own set of challenges as well. Per definition, survival sex means that the boy is literally so desperate for resources that he will do anything. Understandably, “male street youth involved in survival sex are at higher risk for HIV than their non-involved peers not only because of their unprotected commercial sexual activities. They have multiple other HIV risks related to noncommercial sexual activities, drug injection, and sexual abuse...." (Haley, et al). This can hurt them later in life because they will have to deal with health complications and lack of education for “many under age people used in prostitution attend school sporadically, or not at all” (Prostitution Law Review Committee). This results in diminished job prospects and lost future opportunities. Child pornography, another form of child exploitation, also has terrible repercussions for the child. Arguably, “pornography poses an even greater threat to the child victim than does sexual abuse or prostitution. Because the child's actions are reduced to a recording, the pornography may haunt him in future years, long after the original misdeed took place. A child who has posed for the camera must go through life knowing that the recording is circulating within the mass distribution system for child pornography” (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children). Children “involved in pornography can be psychologically scarred and suffer emotional distress for life. They may see themselves as objects to be sold rather than people who are important” (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children). They can also “suffer physical harm as a result of the premature and inappropriate sexual demands placed on them. Perhaps more serious is the disruption of emotional development. Although the psychological problems experienced by children who have been the subjects of child pornography have not been extensively studied, there is ample evidence that such involvement can be devastating. One study suggests that children who are used to produce pornography suffer harmful effects similar to those experienced by incest victims. Such effects may include depression, guilt, and psychologically induced somatic disorders” (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children). The effects of child abuse are all hugely damaging and can affect a victim for the rest of his life.
Some may argue that there are enough resources for male victims. There are actually a number of national and international laws and policies dedicated to helping victims of sexual trafficking, abuse, and exploitation, though most of them don’t have specific language addressing male victims. One example of such law is the ‘Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography’ which was created in 1989 to help end the sexual exploitation of children as well as sexual and non-sexual human trafficking of children. There are also a multitude of online resources for boys such as the Real Stories Gallery Foundation, 1in6, RAIIN, and others. Not to mention that in many places, at least those that can afford it, there are school resource officers who are supposed to give council on issues like this (Matt Interview). Most governments also try to take an active role with programs like child protective services, designed to help and protect adolescents. However, while there are resources for the victims, those resources contain a myriad of problems. To begin, though there are laws helping to deal with sexual exploitation and violence, they do not always get enforced. In the US, “there are so many good laws in America but enforcing them is difficult because there are not enough safe places for the children to go" (Chapple Interview). There are also counterproductive laws and policies that make it hard to help victims: “nongovernmental organisations report that almost two thirds of the countries they work in have laws that make it difficult for them to work with sex workers” (AVERT). Actually, there are many legal situations where nothing is conducive toward a victim getting the help he needs. In some places, police will use the possession of condoms to prove guilt. This dissuades the use of protection and leads to a much higher risk STDs/AIDS (AVERT). Also, “sex trafficking victims face a long road to recovery, and testifying against their exploiters can often hinder that process. While witness testimony can be an effective and necessary form of evidence for a criminal trial, the primary trauma experienced by a victim during the trafficking situation may be reactivated when recounting the exploitation or confronting the exploiter face-to-face. In many cases, the victim-witness has been threatened by the trafficker directly warning against reporting to law enforcement, or the witness’s family members have been threatened or intimidated as a way to prevent cooperation in an investigation or prosecution. In addition, a victim may fear possible prosecution for unlawful activities committed as part of the victimization such as prostitution, drug use, and illegal immigration” (US Department of State). Furthermore, though online resources offer a place for abused males to feel less lonely and recognize that there are others like them, websites can’t give them a roof over their head. The value of having a safe place to live cannot be overstated. Some resources that exist and are available are rendered useless because of a lack of other resources that need to be given in tandem. For instance though many male victims have potential access to counseling and medication, afterwards they will go back to the street because there are simply not enough appropriate or long term safe houses for them to grow up in (Chapple Interview). It doesn’t produce a cogent result when a boy sees a counselor about trauma he’s sustained, only to return to the very environment where that trauma was derived. Additionally, in the US, obtaining antiretrovirals (ARVs) to treat one’s HIV/AIDS in the first place can be a major difficulty. Trade deals mean the medications are very expensive in the USA (Chapple Interview). Also, antiviral medications can have very powerful negative side effects, especially for trauma survivors, which increases the difficulty of complying with the very specific directions they have. Keeping the medication safe when one is homeless and having the required nutrition for the medication to work effectively is a very hard task indeed (Chapple Interview). There is not nearly enough safe housing for street youth, so even if they’re given a prescription for antiviral medication, it is next to impossible to adhere to that medication without living arrangements. Though there is some designated protection for male victims, it does not meet many of the demands they have, or it is simply not accessible enough.
Due to the paucity of public knowledge on the warning signs of abuse from both the perpetrators and the victims, much preventable harm occurs, and rectifying this could help prevent that victimization. In the US, all professionals who work with children, including teachers, doctors, and social workers are required by law to report sexual abuse of a minor. Often, the signs that a child is being abused are quite obvious, so, if the proper authorities are not told, it is obvious that the adults in the child’s life are to blame for the negligence or child endangerment that allowed the abuse to happen. These signs from the victims usually include “acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects, nightmares, sleeping problems, becoming withdrawn or very clingy, becoming unusually secretive, sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings and seeming insecure, regressing to younger behaviours, e.g. bedwetting, unaccountable fear of particular places or people, outburst of anger, changes in eating habits, new adult words for body parts and no obvious source, talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts, self-harm (cutting, burning or other harmful activities). Physical signs, such as, unexplained soreness or bruises around genitals or mouth, sexually, transmitted diseases, pregnancy, running away, not wanting to be alone with a particular child or young person” (Parents Protect). There are also often warning signs from an adult that they are or have the potential to be an offender. Such adults will “refuse to allow a child sufficient privacy or to make their own decisions on personal matters, insist on physical affection such as kissing, hugging or wrestling even when the child clearly does not want it, are overly interested in the sexual development of a child or teenager, insist on time alone with a child with no interruptions, spend most of their spare time with children and have little interest in spending time with people their own age, regularly offer to babysit children for free or take children on overnight outings alone, buy children expensive gifts or give them money for no apparent reason, frequently walk in on children/teenagers in the bathroom, treat a particular child as a favourite (making them feel 'special' compared with others in the family), [or] pick on a particular child" (Parents protect). Furthermore, “in some cases the abuser may also display the following: Very high expectations of the child and what the child should achieve, .... have[ing] been abused as a child, a lack of knowledge and skills in bringing up children, low self esteem and self confidence, depression, alcohol and/or drug abuse, mental or physical ill health, work pressures” (Department of Human Services). To be sure, not all kids or adults who exhibit these signs are abused/abusing, but it is certainly worth looking into if one does start to.
In order to eradicate these situations, the public must take action. Primarily, “America [and the rest of the world] needs to invest in long term and appropriate safe places for homeless sexually exploited boys to grow up in” (Chapple interview). This will enable boys to take control of their lives and recover from abuse, STDs/STIs, and other long term consequences. The public must also not only know the signs of abuse, but be willing to step in and help victims as well. It’s one thing to be aware of the situation, it’s another to be doing something. Similarly, going forward, it’s important to have age appropriate discussion with children about sexual contact, in regards to what is acceptable touching. This will teach kids how to protect themselves and when to alert an adult when they are at risk. It will also explain what’s okay when it comes to experimenting with peers. As men and boys face the added challenge of gender stereotypes, de-stigmatizing male victims will help legitimize their abuse and encourage them to seek help for their trauma. Also, making antiviral drugs much less expensive and much more attainable, though it would require investment and global commitment, would aid humanity as a whole, but especially male victims. It is absurd that people who have HIV/AIDS aren't getting help that is potentially so simple to provide. It will be a long process, but getting victims the assistance that they need, is undoubtedly worth it.
Currently, abused, exploited, and trafficked adolescent males do not receive the understanding, support, and aegis they need. On a whole, this subject requires much more attention than it is currently receiving. Men can be victims, and it’s time we recognize that. In the end, we need to stop becoming so defensive about how our gender, age, or ethnicity plays a role in sexual violence. When people protect an abuser, no matter who the abuser is, the results are catastrophic. The politicization of victims of sexual assault, particularly male victims, means that the issue is forcefully intertwined with subjects such as sexuality, religion, and welfare. Due to the controversial nature of those issues, all that this does is provide further barriers to eradicating the problem as a whole. We instead, should focus on the victims themselves, looking at what will benefit them in both the long and short term. It’s necessary to consider the issue on a larger scale, while also maintaining the level of intimacy that each individual victim’s experience demands. In the original version of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, the lost boys were eternally youthful, trapped in a constant phase of adolescence after having been taken from their families. Male victims of sexual abuse and exploitation face a similar situation. They too are confined in their childhood struggles and never get to have a normal childhood, a cruel parody of Neverland that often stays with them their whole lives. It’s time that these lost boys are found, in every sense of the word.
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