For the Forgotten Men and Boys who Suffer in Silence

The Good Men Project Magazine, nonprofit organization that provides support for men and boys at risk, recently featured an article by Tom Matlack about sex slavery in the United States. Matlack interviewed an agent from Homeland Security. It was a good column that offered a lot of information about sex slavery and what the victims go through. It did have one flaw: there was no mention of male victims at all.

Sexual violence against males is taboo subject. Most male victims do not report their abuse, there are fewer services available to them, and virtually no concern for them either socially or from government-run organizations. This lack of concern renders male victims invisible, and quite often what cannot be seen gets treated as if it does not exist.

In contrast, many groups focus on the issue of the sex trafficking of women, resulting in a lot of — albeit questionable — information, studies, and estimates. Matlack’s column focuses on that greater concern for female victims, which also plays into the political lean of the magazine. To fill the absence of information about male victim of sex trafficking in Matlack’s column, I will provide the information here. Unfortunately, I cannot be as regionally specific as Matlack because there is less information available about male victims of sex trafficking.

But I can start with some general information about human trafficking in the United States.According to a 2009 Houston Chonicle article:

          According to the latest U.S. State Department report on human trafficking, some 45 percent of the 286 certified adult victims in fiscal year 2008 were male, a significant increase from the 6 percent certified in 2006.

          Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which certifies victims of human trafficking, said the increase in the percentage of male victims is due mainly to an uptick in labor-trafficking cases. Seventy-six percent of all human-trafficking victims certified in 2008 were victims of labor trafficking, he said, while sex trafficking accounted for 17 percent. Five percent of victims were subject to both forms of trafficking.

The article goes on to state that in 2006 the U.S. State Department reported that only 6 percent of human trafficking victims were males. By 2009 the number rose to 45 percent of the total victims. Maria Trujillo, executive director of Houston Rescue & Restore Coalition, stated that the trafficking of male victims is underreported, so it is possible the rate is much higher.

One of the many problems that renders male victims invisible is that abuse occurs secretly, making it difficult to document and track. Another problem is the lack of services and attention given to male victims. They have nowhere to go and no one to turn to, and since no one thinks boys can be victims, their abuse goes unnoticed.

There are also the bacha bereesh, the dancing boys, in Afghanistan who get kidnapped, raped, and traded amongst the warlords. There are boys abused abroad as part of sex tourism. There are also cases involving adult men trafficked for sex. A Canadian study found that sexually exploited boys were exploited at younger ages than girls, remained in their situation longer, and abused more and a greater variety of drugs. Most of them had a history of abuse, had run away, and had been involved at some point with child welfare services.

I think the reason why people think boys and men are not victims of sex trafficking is because no one bothers to look for them, to ask about them or reach out to them. And because no one reaches out to male victims, trafficked boys and men will not reach out for help. They live under the same threats that female victims do, and the only way to break fear’s grip on them is to offer them the acknowledgment and support they need to break free.

 

Ferrero Chocolate Company to be Slave-Free

This article is about something that I value immensely, and I have been waiting all semester to find an article  like this so I can write about it. As the semester winds down, I think it’s the best for last kind of thing. This article explains how Ferrero, the Italian chocolate company who makes Ferrero Rocher chocolates among other things, has committed to have all of their cocoa farms child-slave free by the end of 2020.

However, the supply chains chocolate manufacturers get their cocoa from are, for the most part, self-regulated and it generally takes a long time to get things like this accomplished.

The driving factor that I believe is causing this chocolate company, as well as a handful of others, is the amount of profit that is to be had with being a fair trade chocolate company.

Fair trade chocolate is always more expensive than your regular chocolates that you buy in the candy section at the grocery store. Even your already expensive chocolate candies generally cost less than fair trade chocolates.

At the end of 2009, fair trade chocolates had a revenue of 48.4 million euros for farmers*, or approximately $61,661,628. In 2011, however, Ferrero chocolate suffered a decline to 2.4 million euros in pre-tax profits.**

The means to become a fair trade certified company (pledging not to utilize any kind of child or labor trafficking for production) are definitely apparent in the numbers, but it also makes people like me happy that big time chocolate manufacturers are doing a humane thing, even if it may be out of greed.

URL:

http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/20/ferrero-sets-date-to-end-cocoa-slavery/

* http://www.fairtradeafrica.net/market-info/fairtrade-growth-facts-figures/

** http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/finance/2012/0612/1224317753081.html

Look Beneath the Surface

“Most of our cases are not ‘black and white.’ They fall into gray areas that are not always easy to prove.” – Houston Law Enforcement Officer

The most common and perhaps obvious challenge to identifying victims of human trafficking for those in the field is the hidden nature of the crime. Many international victims are brought into the country illegally with traffickers using their illegal entry as a form of control. Such victims are usually unaware of their rights as victims. Meaning, they don’t understand United States laws or the English language. All these factors (among others) help to control the victim and keep the crime (and the victim) hidden. Both international and domestic victims are often kept isolated with no freedom of movement. Contact with the outside world is controlled by the trafficker and often limited to those working for the trafficker, other victims, and in the case of sex trafficking, the johns. Victims become dependent on the trafficker and may not even consider themselves to be victims; another factor making identification difficult.

While difficult to identify because of the hidden nature of the crime, many sectors of our community have the potential to come in contact with a victim of human trafficking. For example, we know victims of sex trafficking are at risk for the same types of injuries as victims of domestic violence and rape. They frequently contract sexually transmitted infections or become pregnant.

So it’s not surprising that law enforcement often ask clinics and emergency room personnel for help in identifying victims. Good citizens are also a great resource in identifying victims if they are little observant of their surroundings. Here are some questions to help identify a victim of human trafficking, created by the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition (an non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims rebuild their lives):

  • What type of work do you do?
  • Are you being paid?
  • Can you leave your job?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you or your family been threatened?
  • What is your working and living condition like?
  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Do you have to ask permission to eat/sleep/go to the bathroom
  • Are there locks on your doors/windows that you cannot unlock?
  • Has your identification or documentation been taken from you?

People are encouraged to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) to report any information about human trafficking; 1-888-3737-888. 24 Hours a day, 7 days a week.

Alright, not exactly possible to directly ask the questions above. So girls, next time you get your nails done, just pay attention to how the manager treats the employees when they think no one’s looking. Then, maybe ask that person (the employee helping you) if they like living in our city or if they get to visit their family back in their country; really pay attention to how they answer and their body language. Guys, y’all do the same when you get a haircut. Who knows what you might find out?

Ever wonder what fuels the fire?….Advertisement.

For the column we had to do for class this week, I focused on what is probably the biggest factor promoting human trafficking: Prostitution Advertisement.

The managers (I guess you could call ’em that) post pictures of these girls with an inappropriate message and include some contact information. Some of these ads women posted themselves but whatever. Yeah I went to one of these websites and saw it for myself, it is unbelievable!

The premier website for such ads is backpage.com, which is hugely supported by Village Voice Media, a privately-run corporation based in Phoenix, AZ. Interestingly enough, Village Voice Media also owns the reputable newspaper, Village Voice, which is “dedicated to the power of the truth.”

I’ve read some of their articles and this newspaper produces excellent journalism, but it’s sad to see they would accept ads from pimps who sell girls like pizza. I don’t know about you guys but, to me, if you publish it, you support it.

There are many other websites like backpage.com that are (sadly) running successfully. So this begs the question: Will the human trafficking be solved if these websites were removed? No. But generally speaking, I’m sure the demand for such services would decrease if there were no means of obtaining it, y’know?

We’ve already established that the problem of human trafficking is expansive. However, doing little things like signing the petition (which I mentioned in an earlier post), supporting victims so they are willing to testify against their abductors without fear, and eliminating websites like backpage.com will weaken the entire criminal network that these people have made.

The best part is that average people like us can do these things. 🙂