First off, good for someone speaking up for boys who are sexually assaulted and trafficked. It shouldn’t happen to any child, and we should never lose sight of this fact.
Second, this quote sheds light on a much larger problem:
“She explained that children who experience sexual abuse are at an increased risk of being sex trafficked, but that this is especially true for boys. Halverson cited a 2017 study from the American Journal of Public Health which “found that girls who were sexually abused as children were 2.5 times more likely to be sex trafficked, but for boys their risk factor of being sex trafficked was over eight times greater if they had been sexually abused.”
Halverson added that “research is showing that when boys report sexual abuse they’re met with more mistrust than girls and, upon analysis, media stories about abuse or sex trafficking regularly focus on young, white females instead of addressing more complex narratives.””
It’s that last bit that resonates with me, because there does seem to be, in American society at least, an especially bright focus not just on white girls, but on young, attractive, white girls.
Think about this. If Hollywood were going to make a movie examining the topic of childhood sexual abuse and human trafficking, is there any question about what the star of that movie would look like? Petite, probably blond, innocent-looking, doe-eyed, with large expressive blue or green eyes. Why? Because they know that Americans will instinctively respond a certain way to that girl. The story will somehow seem more believable, if not more tragic, because this is a “beautiful girl, so full of life” that was harmed.
Well guess what, lots of kids who don’t look like that, are just as innocent, and just as victimized. Somehow, when we see minorities, or not quite as attractive teens and young adults talking about being abused, our sympathy turns into something else. Oh we’re smart enough to not blame the victim, but we start looking at all of the “other” parts of the story.
If only they weren’t living in poverty. If only their parents were home for them instead of working, if only they could have felt better about themselves and the way they look, and on and on.
And, let’s face it, when it’s a boy? We don’t even bother with the other stuff, we go straight to, well he’s a boy, he probably got a kick out of it.
I was a boy. I did not “get a kick out of” being molested by an older boy. It was not a right of passage. It was not an experiment, or a result of my dysfunctional family. It was because someone else decided that their physical gratification was more important than my life. That my only value was in satisfying their sexual cravings.
That’s what it’s like to be sexually assaulted as a child. Trafficking victims get this repeated over and over again by any number of abusers. It’s not any less tragic if we don’t happen to fit the Hollywood mold of what a sympathetic victim looks like. It’s not any less devastating to boys, minorities, or anyone else. Sexual assault knows no race, religion, income status, sexual orientation, or any other line you want to create. It affects children of all groups and all ages, it is unbelievably damaging to them, and they all deserve our attention.