"I Thought it Could Never Happen to Boys"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When you think of a human trafficking victim what images come to mind? Recently, I searched "human trafficking victim" on Google Images and of the first ten pages where a 'victim' was portrayed, only four or five pictures were male (excluding numerous pictures of Ashton Kutcher!). The vast majority of the images depicted a young female. The international anti-trafficking movement is understandably focused on the trafficking of women and children, and while the international community is beginning to recognize that men are often trafficked for labor, we must also ask if counter-trafficking efforts are failing to address the sexual exploitation and trafficking of boys.

In 2008, a partnership between Social Services Cambodia, Hagar Cambodia and World Vision led to publication of a first-of-its-kind research project looking into the sexual abuse and exploitation of boys in Cambodia. Titled, "I Thought it Could Never Happen to Boys" the research gave an opportunity for forty boys and young men who have experienced sexual abuse and exploitation to share their stories. Additionally the research interacted with over 100 staff from NGOs and service providers in an effort to understand their views of sexual abuse of boys in Cambodia. With no prior research in Cambodia on this issue, the study revealed the following:

1. A significant number of Cambodian boys and young men have been sexually abused by not only by foreigners, but also Cambodian men, other children and even some women.
2. Influential cultural beliefs among the population minimize the seriousness of the abuse.
3. Poverty, domestic abuse, family instability and bullying are prominent risk factors.
4. Those who have experienced abuse have general opinions on the services they both need and do not need.
5. The failure of NGOs and service provides to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue has resulted in an alarming lack of services to meet the needs of the abused and exploited.
6. To properly care for male victims of sexual abuse, exploitation or trafficking, it is crucial to build the capacity of carers and service providers.

Equitas has partnered with two organizations who have determined to address the lack of service provisions for abused and exploited males in Cambodia.

First Step  was born out of the research when several members of the research team came together to develop a specialist training curriculum and counseling service that was launched in April 2010. First Step provides community based social work and support services to boys, young men and families affected by sexual abuse, as well as providing a range of unique training, development and support initiatives aimed at practitioners within social work and community settings, including health and criminal justice fields.

In the spring of 2009, Hagar Cambodia took in their first boys who were victims of severe sexual exploitation and trafficking. They offer specialized care in an effort to help these boys experience physical, emotional and psychological healing.This includes assisting the boys with education and health as well as providing the boys with positive mentors and role models. Importantly, Hagar recognizes the aim of their efforts is to see these boys successfully reintegrated into their communities and are working diligently to achieve that goal.

Confronting the problem of human trafficking and exploitation requires a multi-pronged approach. The sexual abuse of boys is a very serious problem, not only in Cambodia, but globally as well, and we must be willing to address it. Those of us working in Cambodia to prevent and alleviate trafficking and exploitation must not overlook the importance of working in partnership to promote an atmosphere where not only females, but also male victims of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking can thrive with hope and dignity.

If you desire to learn more about childhood sexual abuse of boys for Cambodia visit First Step Cambodia or generally visit 1in6.org.

Jeremy Floyd
Project Manager - SE Asia Directive

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23-Feb-2011 10:30 PM
I was on the trip with Jeremy as well and was impressed that both First Step and Hagar have identified their market niche - an area few are choosing to work in - in order to offer the possibility of transformation in these young lives. This makes them both unique and fund-worthy in the opinion of this donor. Kudos to Equitas for identifying these orgs and highlighting them here.
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13-Nov-2011 10:34 AM
Concerned posts :
Its about time the point was made that its not just the foreigners who are responsible for the sex trade in Asian countries. 99% of sex crimes against children in Asia are committed by nationals. Only 1% contributes foreigners, but do the NGO's target
the larger portion? No, because there's no profit in that, and the system in these corrupt countries are designed for making money. On top of all of this there's the entrapment issue, which authorities of these countries have made into an art form. So much
so, the question is, are they placing the children in harms way just to get the conviction. Wake up developed countries, consider the larger picture.
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