Type “human trafficking” into a search engine and pages upon pages of information and organizations pertaining to it come up. As you click on and read through those web pages, it becomes alarmingly evident that the information available is almost exclusively female- oriented. Male victims are oftentimes swept under the rug by the media and society in general. The picture of a trafficking victim that forms most often in people’s minds, is that of a young, teenage girl walking the streets for money under the watchful eye of her pimp, forced into that scenario through acts and threats of violence. Sadly, this is an all too common reality for many victims stuck in the clutches of their traffickers or pimps. However, women are not the only ones victimized around the world. Contrary to what many believe, men are also lured or forced into the hands of the traffickers. What happens though, when an increasing number of boys and men are being victimized in a way that society assumes is only happening to females? What happens to the male victims of human trafficking?
I’ve been doing a lot of research about this, not only for this blog post, but for a paper I’m writing on the same topic. From everything I’ve read, even the experts agree that the information about male victims just isn’t there. People love numbers and we respond very well to statistics so I really wanted to include some statistics about males to emphasize the point I’m trying to make. As I poured over pages of Google search results, I didn’t find a single statistic, from a reliable source, on the subject. In an overwhelming majority of the sites, men were just left out completely. Now, maybe I’m just challenged at using search engines, or maybe, just maybe, there’s a serious lack of consideration and recognition for male victims.
One of the most interesting articles I’ve read in my research is, “Women are Victims, Men Make Choices: The Invisibility of Men and Boys in the Global Sex Trade.” by Jeffery Dennis. The title really says it all; that women are seen as victims and that men are assumed to be making a choice, making a choice not only about being in the sex industry, but to be a part of any sort of trafficking. It brings to light a lot of the injustices and double standards male victims face, ranging from the lack of resources available for them to the stereotypes that the biggest danger they face is AIDS and not physical violence to the constant fact that their sexuality must be questioned, while female victims are presumed heterosexual. Most people would agree that statements like these made about women would be considered highly sexist, but that’s a word that never seems to be used in conjunction with prejudices against men. The most likely reason for this is that men are traditionally seen as the hero or the villain. They are expected to be the protector or the abusers and when they are taken out of that role it makes people very uncomfortable. Worse than that, is that ignorance can lead people to believe that it is actually the man’s fault for not preventing it from happening, because after all, men are invincible aren’t they? Not only are they forced to suffer through the horrific ordeal of being trafficked, but now they’re being blamed for it.
Because sex trafficking is often what is thought of first when thinking of human trafficking, it’s easy to forget that there are other types of trafficking still in existence. Labor trafficking and domestic servitude are just as horrific, degrading, and can be just as psychologically degrading as sex trafficking. While men might not be the majority of sex trafficking victims, they are commonly preyed upon for labor. Being sold for labor is just as big of a deal as being sold for sex. No one has the right to sell another human being for anything. The same ploys that traffickers use to entice women, the promise of a job, the chance to live a better life, are the same promises men find appealing. Men, who in many cases, are just trying to provide for their families are taken from their homes and brought to a different city, state, country, or even continent and forced to work whenever ordered for very little or absolutely nothing and that is completely unacceptable.
Tomorrow is too late for people to realize that men can be victims too. Steps to amend the perception of them need to happen now. Nowhere does it say that men can’t be raped or forced to do labor. There are many things about human trafficking that are uncertain: the exact number of victims, how long it is going to be able to continue before we finally put a stop to it and whether the scars left by their experiences will ever fade from the victims. There is one thing, though, that is certain: race, gender, nationality, human trafficking doesn’t discriminate.
By: Danae Zimmer
(Although the resources for male victims of sex trafficking are slim in numbers, I did stumble across http://malesurvivor.org, which is filled with resources and support for male victims of a types of sexual victimization.)