A new report from The Children’s Society has said there is a need for improvement in how policies and frontline professionals respond to the sexual exploitation of trafficked boys and young men.
The Boys Don’t Cry study reveals that although there are some boys and young men who are known to have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, there are probably a higher number who have not disclosed their exploitation for a variety of complex reasons. As a result this group has been largely ignored by strategies to address sexual exploitation which have tended to focus on female victims.
For many boys, sexual exploitation happens among other forms of exploitation or as part of the wider abuse used by traffickers to enforce control. The abuse can take place in the course of a child’s journey to the UK, or may continue once here alongside other forms of exploitation such as labour exploitation or forced criminal activity. This can often hide it from the authorities who may focus on other more immediately visible forms of exploitation the young man has experienced.
The report calls for greater training for frontline staff in local authorities, schools, and healthcare services as well as those who specifically work with victims of trafficking and young migrants so that they are better able to identify the indicators of sexual exploitation, and to ensure they are aware it can affect boys as well as girls.
It also calls for guaranteed access to mental health services for trafficked children, which is essential to helping boys who have experienced sexual exploitation overcome this trauma.
Further research and deeper understanding of the experiences of trafficked boys who have been through sexual exploitation is also needed to establish with greater clarity what interventions and policies are most helpful for those who have suffered in this way.