Most of the information we read or hear about Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) addresses female victims. In fact, Colorado Judge Robert Lung, a former member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking and himself a survivor of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, reported that 99% of federal dollars that were used for public education and awareness about DMST are spent on materials that only address girls and young women. In fact, 98% of resources addressing sex-trafficking in general talk about women and girls. Unfortunately, boys are far too often the unseen, unrecognized, underserved survivors. It has been reported that 36-40% of children of DMST survivors have been boys. Yet a study done by John Jay College and Center for Court Innovation, estimated as many as 50% of DMST in the U.S. are boys. Trafficking of boys occurs in every state, every county. For example, half of those rescued in a 2017 Denver FBI sting, part of Operation Cross Country, were boys. In 2022, a Broomfield man was sentenced for 20 years in prison for domestic minor sex trafficking involving multiple male minors. But the very nature of DMST makes it impossible to grasp the exact numbers. Regardless, the need for resources and support for victims of DMST are huge, but for boys in particular, the needs are critical. According to The Safe Home Project, there are only 74 organizations that provide safe housing for victims of DMST, however – there isn’t one home for boys, ages 12-17, brought out of DMST in the entire country!
Why are boys so often unseen, so underserved?
Though the reasons remain largely unclear, in a paper entitled, And Boys Too, ECPAT-USA summarized the contributing factors cited in the John Jay College study as follows:
- The unwillingness of boys to self-identify as sexually exploited due to shame and stigma about being gay or 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 child sexual exploitation.
- 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.
The ease with which traffickers are able to access children is another contributing factor. Gaming apps are very popular with young boys and present an ideal venue for connecting and grooming boys. Younger and younger children, particularly boys, have viewed pornography which is a grooming tool. In an article published on Fight The New Drug’s website, Sean Wheeler, a survivor of DMST and a consultant for Sarah’s Home/Daniel Academy, highlighted the role of pornography in his being trafficked. He said, “At seven years old or so, I was groomed with adult porn, then child sexual abuse images, and then I was used in it…Boys are abused, trafficked for sex, and used in porn.”
Consider what you might do to help correct this injustice, to help highlight the risks to boys and to increase resources and support available to them. Please consider donating and supporting the efforts of Sarah’s Home Corp. towards building a safe home for boys, called Daniel Academy. You can continue to educate and inform yourself, friends and family. Contact Sarah’s Home and invite us to speak to your organization or host a “fireside chat” in your home, inviting people in your sphere of influence to attend and learn more. Below are some resources, including a video about Daniel Academy you can share with your church or friends, to help you learn more:
- Sean Wheeler’s organization: https://www.starfishcolorado.org
- Sarah’s Home Daniel Academy: Daniel Academy Info – YouTube