The “Others”

     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.)

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From Whisper to Roar

Sex. There is nothing that fascinates American society more. Magazine covers are plastered with sexually charged images of celebrities and filled with stories of their sexual conquests and articles that promise to contain the secrets to wow-ing in bed. The population has become accustomed, to the point of comfortable, with discussing, dissecting, and bantering about it in almost every forum. Why is it then, when it comes to the topic of sexual slavery, does that roar become a whisper?

There seems to be no category of sex too taboo to be discussed, but the conversation surrounding the dark side of sex is rather sparse on dialogue. A conversation about sexual slavery is exactly what the world needs though. Without an active discussion about human trafficking, society is not only guilty of allowing it to continue, but by avoiding it, we are enabling the traffickers to continue abusing and enslaving victims. If lawmakers and voters alike joined  together and decided that not only were they going to stop pretending human trafficking didn’t exist, but were going to actively try to end it, there is absolutely no reason why it wouldn’t be extinguished by the end of the current generation.

The biggest problem we face isn’t getting people to care; most humans are born with an innate sense of compassion. The problem is getting people to do something about it. It wouldn’t matter if 99% of the population decided that they thought human trafficking was horrendous and should be stopped, if no one makes that a priority. The biggest problem is that not nearly enough people want to talk about it. Human trafficking is neither a fun or enjoyable issue to tackle, but an extremely necessary one. People don’t want to spend their lunch break chatting about victims being forced to work in brothels for no pay 24 hours a day or about young children forced to turn tricks to earn money for their pimps because, besides compassion, most humans have an inherent aversion to the uncomfortable. It is hard to imagine a conversation more uncomfortable than one surrounding the abhorrent sexual exploitation of human beings, especially children. However, there is absolutely no comparison between the uncomfortableness of a discussion about human trafficking and the uncomfortableness of the life of someone forced to live in these horrendous conditions.

Beginning the discussion is far easier than it has ever been before. Social media sites have made it as simple as entering in a few keystrokes to just spread even the most basic information about trafficking. Many Americans are under the false belief that human trafficking is just a terrible thing that happens in the far east and third world countries, but could never happen in the United States. Unfortunately no continent, aside from barren Antarctica, has managed to escape the clutches of slavery. Talking about it and seeing others doing the same makes it real and once it’s real, it becomes very difficult to ignore.

It is time for people to deal with the uncomfortable and the unpleasant. Hiding behind what is easy to talk about is only serving to further strengthen the taboo surrounding human trafficking. It is not enough to merely mention it in passing and move on. It is not something the world can afford to forget and sweep it under the rug.  A world full of hushed whispers will never be as powerful as a room full of people unafraid to talk openly about human trafficking and what can be done to put an end to it.

By: Danae Zimmer