| | |

The Silenced Minority: Sex Trafficking of Males

Originally published on the Human Trafficking Institute’s website

by  | Feb 11, 2022


In 1998, President Bill Clinton stated that his administration was “committed to combatting trafficking in women and girls.”[i] Two years later, he signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).[ii] Although the TVPA was a huge milestone in the anti-human-trafficking movement,[iii] its enactment was motivated by a singular focus on the “iconic victim”—white, female, and helpless—despite human trafficking not being limited to a specific gender, age, race, or sexuality.[iv] Indeed, lawmakers “focused narrowly on the kidnapping and sexual enslavement of the iconic victim to hasten passage of the TVPA.”[v]

This disproportionate and sometimes sole focus on female victims in today’s discussion of sex trafficking has not changed much since the passing of the TVPA.[vi] Conceptions about sex trafficking have been “formed, promoted, and viewed through news reports, cinema, public programs, academic literature, and criminal statutes as a heinous crime against women and girls.”[vii] The lack of discussion and studies regarding male victims of sex trafficking seems to convey the notion that sex trafficking is not happening to males or that it is not as dire of a situation as it is for girls. This line of thought is dangerous to the many men and boys who have been, and are currently being, sex trafficked in the United States and around the globe.[viii]

This article will address the legal basics of sex trafficking by looking at how it is defined in the U.S. Code. Next, the article will address common themes in the sex trafficking of boys by looking at civil and criminal sex trafficking cases filed in U.S. federal courts between 2000 and 2020. Third, the article will address barriers male victims and survivors face in reporting their exploitation. Lastly, the article will give brief recommendations for anti-trafficking advocates to assist frontline officers, such as police officers and healthcare workers, in identifying and assisting male survivors of sex trafficking.

The Legal Basics of Sex Trafficking

The federal sex trafficking offense has three elements that can be summarized as “acts, means, purpose.” The crime is legally defined as the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act” (i.e. the “act” element).[ix] The commercial sex act must be “induced by force, fraud, or coercion” (i.e. the “means” element).[x] A commercial sex act is defined as “any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person” (i.e. the “purpose” element)[xi].

However, if a person is under 18-years old, a showing of “force, fraud, or coercion” is not necessary.[xii] When a child is involved in a commercial sex act, they are automatically considered a victim of sex trafficking under the law.[xiii] Demonstrating a means of force, fraud, or coercion is not required. Therefore, there is no such thing as a child prostitute.

Two aspects of the statute are particularly important to keep in mind when considering male victimization. First, the law is gender-neutral regarding who can be a victim of sex trafficking.[xiv] Second, the law does not require the involvement of a third party, like a pimp. Sex trafficking can occur when there is only a buyer[xv] and a victim. This means a buyer of sex becomes a trafficker by law if they knew or recklessly disregarded that they were buying sex with a trafficking victim, including if they had “reasonable opportunity to observe” the age of a minor victim.[xvi]

Common Themes of Sex Trafficking of Boys

After reviewing 35 civil and criminal sex trafficking cases that were filed in U.S. federal courts between 2000 and 2020, where at least one, if not all the victims, were boys, several common themes emerged.[xvii]

Pre-Existing Vulnerabilities

The boy victims identified in federal sex trafficking cases often experienced circumstances prior to being trafficked that made them particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking. These vulnerabilities included substance dependency,[xviii] child abuse,[xix] identifying as LGBTQ+,[xx] limited English proficiency,[xxi] undocumented or irregular immigration status,[xxii] and homelessness.[xxiii] Identifying as LGBTQ+ was particularly common. In multiple cases,  defendants met victims through Grindr, a social networking app for individuals who identify as gay, bisexual, trans, and queer.[xxiv] In one case, the trafficker portrayed himself to a 17-year-old boy as an escort, an escort manager, and a client in order to have sex with the boy.[xxv] The victim was unaware that the escort, escort manager, and client were all the same individuals. Acting as the escort, the defendant suggested the victim become an escort and introduced him to the escort manager.[xxvi] Acting as the escort manager, the defendant arranged the victim’s meeting with the client (who was the defendant) at a hotel.[xxvii] In another case, the victim was a 17-year-old boy who was rejected by his family for identifying as gay.[xxviii] The victim became homeless, and the trafficker preyed on this vulnerability to entice the boy to perform commercial sex acts as part of his massage therapy business.

Methods of Recruitment

Methods of recruitment mentioned in the criminal and civil cases filed included job offers,[xxix] the internet,[xxx] pre-existing relationships,[xxxi] and promises of material possessions.[xxxii] Out of these recruitment methods, the two most common were the internet and pre-existing relationships. Defendants are commonly recruited through social media apps, utilizing platforms like Grindr, Kik, and Instagram to connect with underage boys, discuss payment, and set a location for the exploitation.[xxxiii]

Pre-existing relationships were another common method of recruitment. Many of these individuals held positions of trust meant to protect children: doctors, religious leaders, teachers, parents, and other family members. In one case, for example, the trafficker worked at a school where he would engage in sexual acts with the students in exchange for shoes, clothing, money, or other necessities, sometimes giving the victims drugs to make them more compliant.[xxxiv] In another case, the defendant was a sexual abuse psychiatrist who began sexually abusing his patient.[xxxv] The trafficker knew that the boy’s family was poor, so he would give the victim money in exchange for sex. A final case example portrays perhaps the most severe betrayal of trust when the victim’s own father began sexually molesting his 15-year-old son before forcing him to engage in a sexual relationship with the defendant in exchange for money.[xxxvi]

How Boys Are Being Sexually Exploited

After reviewing the civil and criminal cases filed between 2000 and 2020, two common fact patterns emerged as ways in which the boys were being sexually exploited. Some cases were characterized by an individual trafficker taking advantage of a boy’s vulnerability and exchanging something of value for sex. The common view of sex trafficking is that a victim is trafficked by a pimp or trafficker who controls and abuses the victim, and a third-party buyer who purchases the victim for sexual services.[xxxvii] However, in the cases reviewed, it was common for there to be no third party. Instead, the buyer and the trafficker were synonymous. [xxxviii] For example, in United States v. Otero-Otero, the defendant engaged in sexual acts with approximately five minors and would pay them between $20-$80.[xxxix] In the complaint, there were no allegations made that the defendant trafficked the minors to any third parties.[xl] When there is not a third party involved, trafficking of boys can be falsely perceived as a consensual relationship, rather than inherently coercive and controlling.[xli] This can add to the harmful belief that males are more responsible for their actions and are therefore to blame.[xlii]

The second common way the boys were being sexually exploited was through the possession, distribution, and/or production of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Several of the traffickers not only physically engaged in sex acts with the victims, but possessed CSAM of their victims or other children.[xliii] Some of the traffickers had images of both males and females, while others had images only of males.[xliv] The link between CSAM and the sex trafficking of males is not surprising. According to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma, “[T]he viewing of [CSAM] is not a passive crime. The demand for this material fuels the physical and sexual abuse of children around the world.”[xlv]

Barriers Male Victims Face[xlvi]

One barrier that male survivors face is the common misconception that males cannot be victims. This view can come from both traditional views of masculinity, as well as the continual focus on the female-victim and male-perpetrator paradigm. Traditional views of masculinity can perpetuate the belief that males cannot be victims. Many cultures tend to discourage males from displaying emotions or vulnerability because those attributes are considered weak and feminine.[xlvii] In the media, female vulnerability is highlighted, while male vulnerability gets obscured by expressions of male dominance.[xlviii] Many young boys grow up hearing “suck it up,” “men do not cry,” “do not be a girl,” or “be a man” when it comes to vulnerability, emotions, and pain. Unfortunately, these are statements they take into adulthood that can create barriers for male victims in disclosing their exploitation.

The female-victim and male-perpetrator paradigm also contributes to low identification rates of male victims. When males are included in the discussion on sex trafficking, they are usually discussed as the perpetrators.[xlix] Social worker Steven Procopio explained, “We are led to believe that men are perpetrators and women are victims and not the flip side.”[l] For some people, the idea that males can be oppressed or victimized is ludicrous.[li] This view of males is not helped by the media, where males are depicted as aggressive, violent, dominating, and sexual.[lii] Even the anti-trafficking movement has been guilty, at times, of perpetuating stereotypes of males as protectors or perpetrators, while failing to account for them among victims or at-risk populations.[liii] In addition to being an inaccurate generalization, this female-victim and male-perpetrator paradigm results in and the general public failing to identify males as victims,[liv] among other negative consequences.

A second barrier that male victims commonly face is fear of being judged for their sexual identity, whether they identify as LGBTQ+ or fear the ramifications of being perceived as such. Jose Alfaro, a survivor of sex trafficking, says that male victims “are afraid that people are going to think that they’re gay.” [lv] If the victim is gay or assumed to be gay, they may be confronted with individuals who buy into the false and prejudiced narratives that  “they wanted it.’’[lvi] Male victims who identify as LGBTQ+ may be reluctant to disclose their sexual exploitation for fear of discrimination, retribution, or blame that their sexuality got them into the situation.[lvii] Because of this stigma, many male victims may decide not to disclose their sexual exploitation.[lviii]

A third barrier that male victims commonly face is the lack of to help them exit a trafficking situation and address their various needs to allow them to thrive. Male survivors are often faced with limited services specifically for male survivors of sex trafficking.[lix] According to the Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress on U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, in the 2018 fiscal year, the federal government awarded funding to 150 organizations in the United States that were serving survivors of human trafficking.[lx]Based on my review of the 150 grant recipients’ websites, out of the 119 recipients that addressed both sex trafficking and forced labor, only one recipient had a program dedicated to serving male victims. Out of the 31 recipients addressing only sex trafficking, none of the recipients had a program solely for male victims of sex trafficking.[lxi] Male victims may not see a benefit in disclosing their sexual exploitation to a complete stranger if they do not know there are resources. Why would they want to revictimize themselves only to end up in the same place? Male and female victims alike have basic needs such as housing, food, and clothing. If these needs and others are not being met, boys and men are going to continue to be vulnerable to sex trafficking as they look to traffickers to meet those needs.[lxii]


By focusing on the sex trafficking of males, men and boys around the globe can begin to step out of the shadows and find a society that is willing to listen and help. The focus on male survivors should not take away from the importance of helping female survivors. It is not a decision of choosing one over the other. In Boys Documentary, Survivor Advocate Christopher M. Anderson says it perfectly:

This is not about comparing who has it worst. Every single survivor—man, woman, male, female, boy, girl, straight, gay, other—every single survivor has a unique story. . . . It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not like, if I give more to men, I’m taking away from women. The more we can address the issue holistically, the better able we’re going to be to reduce it.[lxiv]

To help combat sex trafficking of males, anti-human trafficking advocates can:

  1. Develop and conduct trainings for frontline workers, such as police officers and healthcare providers, that can help them identify male victims and survivors.[lxv]
  2. Create more resources for male survivors of sex trafficking and raise awareness about these services in areas where victims are commonly found.[lxvi] These services should include, inter alia, housing, medical services, counseling, economic assistance, and legal aid.[lxvii]
  3. Discuss sex trafficking of males in trainings, webinars, and awareness events, enabling the perspectives and expertise of males with lived experience to help shape the narrative as more than a footnote. 


The more anti-human trafficking advocates and practitioners recognize the plight of male victims and survivors, the more the movement can make strides towards understanding and addressing the reality and scope of sex trafficking of males. More importantly, these efforts communicate to male survivors and victims that their experience is valid, and they do not have to remain in the shadows.


[i] Memorandum on Steps to Combat Violence Against Women and Trafficking in Women and Girls, 412-13 (March 11, 1998), https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/WCPD-1998-03-16/pdf/WCPD-1998-03-16-Pg412.pdf (emphasis added). President Clinton later stated he wanted to “ensure that young women and girls are educated about [trafficking] so that they will not fall prey to traffickers’ tactics of coercion, violence, fraud, and deceit.” Id. at 413 (emphasis added). He directed the Attorney General to “review existing U.S. criminal laws and their current use to determine if they are adequate to prevent and deter trafficking in women and girls” and for the Secretary of State to “expand and enhance anti-fraud training to stop the international trafficking of women and girls.” Id. (emphasis added).

[ii] Kelly E. Hyland, Protecting Human Victims of Trafficking: An American Framework, 16 Berkley Women’s L.J. 29, 60 (2001). The TVPA was embedded into the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was aimed at stopping violence against women and vulnerable groups. Michael T. Tien, Human Trafficking: the Missing Male Victim, 18 Pub. Interest l. rep. 207, 208 (2013).

[iii] In 2000, the adopted what is commonly known as the Palermo Protocol (Protocol). Not only does the Protocol’s title specify women and children, but Article 2 makes that specification, stating that one purpose of the Protocol is “[t]o prevent and combat , paying particular attention to women and children.” General Assembly resolution 55/25, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000) (emphasis added).

[iv] Samuel Vincent Jones, The Invisible Man: The Conscious Neglect of Men and Boys in the War on Human Trafficking, 2010 Utah L. Rev. 1143, 1162 (2010). “The iconic victim is described and perceived to be a female of European descent, trafficked for sex, waiting helplessly for law enforcement officials to rescue her.” Id. at 1162.

[v] Id. at 1162. See also Anthony M. Destefano, The War on Human Trafficking: U.S. Policy Addressed

38 (2007); Karen Bravo, Exploring the Analogy Between Modern Trafficking in Humans and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 25 B.U. INT’L L.J. 207, 249 (2007); Jennifer M. Chacón, Misery and Myopia: Understanding the Failures of U.S. Efforts to Stop Human Trafficking, 74 Fordham L. Rev. 2977 (2006).

[vi] Samuel Vincent Jones discusses an April 4, 2010 episode of Larry King Live where the panelists discussing human trafficking make at least 25 references to women and girls as victims but do not reference male victims the entire segment. Id. at 1143-44.

[vii] Samuel V. Jones, Ending Bacha Bazi: Boy Sex Slavery and the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine, 25 Ind. Int’l & Comp L. Rev. 63, 65 (2015).

[viii] See id. (discussing the practice of Bacha Bazi in Afghanistan, where men will prey on vulnerable boys and bring them to parties where other men will exploit and rape them); Jones K. Adjei & Elizabeth M. Saewyc, Boys are not exempt: Sexual exploitation of adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa, 65 Child Abuse & Neglect 14 (2017); Carol M. Nicholls et al., Research on the sexual exploitation of boys and young men, Barnardo’s (Aug. 2014), https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/files/cse_young_boys_summary_report.pdf (discussing findings regarding the sexual exploitation of males in the UK).

[ix] 18 U.S.C § 1591(a)(1) (2021).

[x] Id. § 1591(a)(2).

[xi] Id.

[xii] Id.

[xiii] Id. § 1591(a)(2).

[xiv] “Victim of trafficking” is defined as “a person subjected to an act or practiced described in paragraph (9) or (10).” 22 U.S.C § 7102(17) (2021).

[xv] 18 U.S.C § 1591(a)(2). Buyer here does not only mean the exchange of money for sex. The exchange could be for “anything of value”, such as food, shelter, or clothing. In 2015, Congress included ‘patronizes’ and ‘solicits’ as prohibited acts under 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)(1). It was changed to create criminal liability for buyers who purchased sex acts with adults trafficked by force, fraud, or coercion, or with children. Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, Pub. L. No. 114-22, 129 Stat. 227.

[xvi] 18 U.S.C § 1591(c).

[xvii] This section will address pre-existing vulnerabilities of boys, the ways in which boys are recruited, and how boys are being sexually exploited. This section will not address cases filed in state courts or international courts or the many instances of sex trafficking of men and boys that were not reported and/or prosecuted. There are studies and research that discuss vulnerabilities, recruitment methods, and forms of sexual exploitation that are not discussed in this article. See United Nations Children’s Fund, Research on the Sexual Exploitation of Boys: Findings, ethical considerations and methodological challenges, UNICEF (2020) (hereinafter UNICEF); ECPAT International, Global Boys Initiative: A global review of existing literature on the sexual exploitation of boys, ECPAT International (2021); Boys and Young Men at Risk of Sexual Exploitation: A Toolkit for Professionals, Northumberland County Council (Mar. 2018) (hereinafter Toolkit for Professionals); Emerald Lacy, The Rising Danger of Child Trafficking in Online Gaming, ECAPAT USA (Dec. 23, 2019), https://www.ecpatusa.org/blog/2019/12/11/the-rising-danger-of-child-trafficking-in-online-gaming; Human Trafficking Victims: Male Perspective, Collective Library, https://collectiveliberty.org/blog/human-trafficking-victims-male-perspective/ (last visited Nov. 23, 2021) (discussing the prevalence of online recruitment through multiplayer videogames, social media, and chat apps). According to the Pew Research Center, 97% of teenage boys in America play games. Andrew Perrin, 5 facts about Americans and , Pew Research Center (Sept. 17, 2008), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/17/5-facts-about-americans-and-video-games/.

[xviii] United States v. Zacharias (N.D. Ohio 2020) (No. 3:20-cr-00679).

[xix] United States v. Edwards (N.D. Ala. 2017) (No. 5:17-cr-00509).

[xx] United States v. McWilliams (N.D. Ohio 2020) (No. 1:20-cr-00358); United States v. Gobenciong (N.D. Ill. 2017) (No. 1:17-cr-00258); Alfaro v. Gandy (S.D. Tex. 2018) (No. 4:18-cv-01761).

[xxi] United States v. Edwards (N.D. Ala. 2017) (No. 5:17-cr-00509).

[xxii] United States v. Edwards (N.D. Ala. 2017) (No. 5:17-cr-00509); United States v. Camposeco-Montejo (S.D. Fla. 2019) (No. 9:19-cr-80147).

[xxiii] Alfaro v. Gandy (S.D. Tex. 2018) (No. 4:18-cv-01761).

[xxiv] Complaint, United States v. McWilliams (N.D. Ohio 2020) (No. 1:20-cr-00358)

[xxv] Complaint, United States v. Gobenciong (N.D. Ill 2017) (No. 1:17-cr-000258).

[xxvi] The defendant, acting in both capacities as the escort and the manager, requested and received CSAM from the victim.

[xxvii] The defendant, acting as the escort manager, told the victim that the client was a talent coach and could help the victim as a new model.

[xxviii] Complaint, Alfaro v. Gandy (S.D. Tex. 2018) (No. 4:18-cv-01761).

[xxix] United States v. Ahmad (N.D. Cal. 2013) (No. 4:13-cr-00374); United States v. Gandy (S.D. Tex 2012) (No. 4:12-cr-00503).

[xxx] United States v. De Sear (D.N.J 2013) (No. 212-cr-00553); United States v. Lyons (W.D. Ky. 2020) (No. 3:20-cr-00049); United States v. McWilliams (N.D. Ohio 2020) (No. 1:20-cr-00358); United States v. Otero-Otero, (D.P.R. 2016) (No. 3:16-cr-00364); United States v. Shortey (W.D. Okla. 2017) (No. 5:17-cr-00195); United States v. Gobenciong (N.D. Ill 2017) (No. 1:17-cr-000258); United States v. Gandy (S.D. Tex 2012) (No. 4:12-cr-00503); United States v. Crosby (S.D. Ga. 2018) (No. 2:17-cr-00061); United States v. Randazzo et al (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (No. 1:14-cr-00189); United States v. Wilkins (C.D. Cal. 2016)( No. 2:16-cr-00093); United States v. Frazier (N.D. Ga. 2019) (No. 1:19-cr-00279); Alfaro v. Gandy (S.D. Tex. 2018) (No. 4:18-cv-01761).

[xxxi] United States v. Berrios-Berrios (D.P.R. 2014) (No. 3:14-cr-00334); United States v. Navarro-Rodriguez (D.P.R. 2013) (No. 3:13-cr-00740); United States v. Sebastian (D. Mass. 2020) (No. 1:20-cr-10170); United States v. McWilliams (N.D. Ohio 2020) (No. 1:20-cr-00358); United States v. Zacharias (N.D. Ohio 2020) (No. 3:20-cr-00679); United States v. Otero-Otero, (D.P.R. 2016) (No. 3:16-cr-00364); United States v. Vega-Valentin (D.P.R. 2016) (No. 3:16-cr-00790); United States v. Billy Edwards et al (N.D. Ala. 2017) (No. 5:17-cr-00509); United States v. Randazzo et al (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (No. 1:14-cr-00189); United States v. Patrakis (D. Haw. 2017) (No. 1:17-cr-00109); Jean-Charles v. Perlitz et al (D. Conn. 2011) (No. 3:11-cv-00614); Doe v. Nygard et al (S.D.N.Y. 2020) (No. 1:20-cv-06501).

[xxxii] United States v. Otero-Otero, (D.P.R. 2016) (No. 3:16-cr-00364).

[xxxiii] See United States v. Lyons, Complaint, United States v. Lyons (W.D. Ky. 2020) (No. 3:20-cr-00049) (communicating with the victim through Grindr and asking to perform sex acts on the victim in exchange for $50); United States v. Shortey, Complaint, United States v. Shortey (W.D. Okla. 2017) (No. 5:17-cr-00195) (discussing exchanging money for sex with the victim through the app Kik and arranging a meet up at a hotel); United States v. Frazier, Complaint, United States v. Frazier (N.D. Ga. 2019) (No. 1:19-cr-00279) (using Instagram to communicate with the victim and set up two meetings).

[xxxiv] Complaint, Jean-Charles v. Perlitz et al (D. Conn. 2011) (No. 3:11-cv-00614).

[xxxv] Complaint, United States v. Navarro-Rodriguez (D.P.R. 2013) (No. 3:13-cr-00740).

[xxxvi] Complaint, United States v. Billy Edwards et al (N.D. Ala. 2017) (No. 5:17-cr-00509).

[xxxvii] Brett M. Figlewski & Lee W. Brannon, Trafficking and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Young Men and Boys, in Lawyer’s Manual on Human Trafficking 151 (Jill Goodman and Dorchen Leidhold eds., 2013). Figlewski and Brannon describe two models which they call the triadic model and the dyadic model. They discuss how females tend to follow the triadic model, which is described as“[T]he trafficker or pimp exists as one corner of a triad, distinct from the purchaser and the victim.” Id.  In contrast, they discuss how boys tend to follow the dyadic model and “are often subjected to commercial sexual exploitation by an initial patron or at the behest of a peer.” Id.

[xxxviii] “Male minors don’t usually work with a pimp, although they may work with a ‘market facilitator’ to sell themselves.” Timothy A. Bastedo, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Male Minors in the United States: A Snapshot with Strategic Implications for Prevention Education, Love 146 at 7.

[xxxix] Criminal Complaint at 2, United States v. Otero-Otero, (D.P.R. 2016) (No. 3:16-cr-00364).

[xl] See also Complaint, Jean-Charles v. Perlitz et al (D. Conn. 2011) (No. 3:11-cv-00614) (engaging in sexual acts with minor males by drugging the victims or exchanging for shoes, clothing, money, or other necessities); Complaint St. Louis v. Perlitz et al (D. Conn. 2013) (No. 3:13-cv-01132) (engaging in sexual acts with minor males by drugging the victims or exchanging for shoes, clothing, money, or other necessities); Plea Agreement, United States v. Crosby (S.D. Ga. 2018) (No. 2:17-cr-00061) (giving minors money in exchange for sex); Superseding Information, United States v. De Sear (D.N.J 2013) (No. 212-cr-00553) (traveling with a minor victim to Europe); Magistrate Complain, United States v. Frazier (N.D. Ga. 2019) (No. 1:19-cr-00279); Criminal Complaint, United States v. Gobenciong (N.D. Ill 2017) (No. 1:17-cr-000258) (portraying himself as an escort, escort manager, and client in order to have sex with the child).

[xli] See Bastedo, supra note 41, at 7-8.

[xlii] Figlewski & Brannon, supra note 40, at 157.

“This tendency for boys to rely on peers rather than on pimps or parent-equivalent adults can be problematic in viewing sexually-solicited boys as victims of CSE [child sexual exploitation]. Presumably, when juveniles are pimped by adults, they will tend to be seen as victim, and when they take a more active role in soliciting sexual activities, they will tend to be seen as offenders.”


[xliii] See also United States v. Abernathy et al (W.D. Pa. 2014) (No. 2:14-cr-00009) (finding the defendant produced and distributed CSAM); United States v. Crosby (S.D. Ga. 2018) (No. 2:17-cr-00061) (possessing CSAM); United States v. De Sear (D.N.J. 2012) (No. 2:12-cr-00553) (possessing CSAM); United States v. Frazier (N.D. Ga. 2019) (No. 1:19-cr-00279) (producing CSAM); United States v. Gobenciong (N.D. Ill. 2017) (No. 1:17-cr-00258) (possessing CSAM); United States v. Harrell et al (C.D. Cal. 2017) (No. 2:17-cr-00404) (producing and distributing CSAM); United States v. Lamphier (W.D. Wis. 2020) (No. 3:20-cr-00149) (distributing CSAM); United States v. Lyons (W.D. Ky. 2020) (No. 3:20-cr-00049) (possessing and distributing CSAM); United States v. Parker (M.D. Pa. 2017) (No. 3:17-cr-00234) (possessing CSAM); United States v. Wilkins (C.D. Cal. 2016)( No. 2:16-cr-00093) (possessing CSAM).

[xliv] Some of the images were of the victims of the traffickers, while others were of unrelated children.

[xlv] One example is an ex-police officer, who after watching a 10-year-old boy being sexually abused, began talking to boys online “with an eye toward raping them.” Jones, supra note 5, at 1150.

[xlvi] There are many other barriers that male victims face in disclosing sexual exploitation and trafficking that will not be discussed in this article. This article focuses on three main barriers explored in Valentin Luz, Sex Trafficking of Males, The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, (July 2, 2020), https://www.canadiancentretoendhumantrafficking.ca/sex-trafficking-of-males/; See also Listening Sessions on Men and Boys, NHTTAC (Sept. 2020), https://nhttac.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/2021-02/Men%20and%20Boys%20Listening%20Sessions_Meeting%20Summary_508c.pdf (hereinafter Listening Sessions).

[xlvii] See UNICEF, supra note 20, at 14. Some male victims fear reporting their exploitation for fear of being perceived as weak and being met with a hyper-masculine response. Toolkit for Professionalssupra note 20, at 12. If a male victim is exploited by a male perpetrator, it can lead to fear, shame, and confusion that prevents them from disclosing the sex trafficking. Luz, supra note 49.

[xlviii] Jones, supra note 5, at 1145.

[xlix] Id. “[I]f the only narrative is that of males as perpetrators, we risk amplifying barriers to identifying and supporting male victims and survivors.” Id.

[l] Jenifer B. McKim & Philip Martin, Unseen: The Boy Victims of The Sex Trade, Part I, GHB (Apr. 5, 2021), https://www.wgbh.org/news/unseen-the-boy-victims-of-the-sex-trade-pt-1 (quoting Steven Procopio, a social worker in Boston).

[li] Jones, supra note 5, at 1145.

[lii] Id. at 1173.

[liii] See e.g., FRONTLINE PBS Official, Sex Trafficking in America (full documentary), YouTube (Mar. 30, 2021), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waRNXRaHH34 (focusing only on female victims, even though the title of the documentary is Sex Trafficking in America, which would, and should, include males); Exodus Cry, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, YouTube (Jan. 16, 2020), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFaDHgXPbUg (focusing specifically on the sex trafficking of women and girls).

[liv] While the best data that we have so far indicates that there are more female victims of sex trafficking than male victims, the reality is that male victims tend to be underrepresented in these studies because they tend to be under-identified.

[lv] McKim & Martin, supra note 53.

[lvi] Id. This can go into the previous barrier discussed. If the victim was forced to have sex with other men, for some who hold strongly to traditional notions of masculinity, they may only be able to see one of two choices: either the victim is gay and therefore wanted the sex, or the victim is not really a man because he would have protected himself.

[lvii] Figlewski & Brannon, supra note 40, at 156.

[lviii] Id. A survivor in the Connecticut trafficking ring also brought up this similar fear to a health care provider, saying he was worried and embarrassed people would think he is gay when he is not. Collins, supra note 1.

[lix] Luz, supra note 49.

[lx] See Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress on U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, app. F at 94-178 (2020) [hereinafter Combat Trafficking].

[lxi] See id. For many of the 150 recipients, their websites state they help “all victims” or “victims” of human trafficking without giving any specifics to gender. While some of them may very well assist male survivors of sex trafficking, the recipients’ websites do not list services specifically for males.

[lxii] There have been some recent safe homes opened for male survivors of sex trafficking. One organization is the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT). The organization has a safe home in Florida for individuals assigned male at birth under the age of 18 who have been sex trafficked. In Texas, there is a safe home for male survivors ages 18-24. The home is called Bob’s House of Hope.

[lxiii] Below are only a few recommendations. There are many other steps that can be taken to help male survivors of sex trafficking. See Listening Sessionsupra note 49.

[lxiv] Boys Documentary (Vimeo Apr. 27, 2020). In the documentary, several male survivors share their stories of sex trafficked in the United States.

[lxv] See Jessica Moore et al., Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: A Case Series of Male Pediatric Patients, J. of Interpersonal Violence 1, 12 (2020) (discussing the need to create and implement domestic minor sex trafficking screenings, testing, and interventions for male patients). There are some examples of trainings specifically on the sex trafficking of men and boys. See International Association of Chiefs of Police, Sex Trafficking of Men and Boys, ICAPlearn, https://learn.theiacp.org/products/sex-trafficking-of-men-and-boys (last visited Nov. 23, 2021); U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, Identifying CSEC Boys, USIAHT, https://usiaht.org/identifying-csec-boys/ (last visited Nov. 23, 2021).

[lxvi] See e.g., Meagan Fitzgerald et al., Development of a Multi-Session curriculum Addressing Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking for High-Risk Male Youth, 30 J. of Child Sexual Abuse 667 (2021). A curriculum entitled “Addressing Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Involvement: Male-Focused Intervention Curriculum” was developed in 2017. Id. at 669. The purpose of the curriculum was to prevent and raise awareness of “male involvement in DMST [domestic minor sex trafficking] as victims, perpetrators, or sex-buyers.” Id. The curriculum was piloted in a state juvenile detention center. Id. at 671. A similar type of curriculum, with an additional component of resources for male survivors, could be developed and presented in other settings, such as schools and homeless shelters.

[lxvii] Michael T. Tien, Human Trafficking: the Missing Male Victim, 18 Pub. Interest L. Rep. 207, 210 (2013).



This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from its original online location.


PBJ Learning is a leading provider of online human trafficking training, focusing on awareness and prevention education. Their interactive Human Trafficking Essentials is being used worldwide to educate professionals and individuals how to recognize human trafficking and how to respond to a potential victim. Their online human trafficking course is available for use on any web browser (even your mobile phone) at any time.

More stories like this can be found in your PBJ Learning Knowledge Vault.