The spotlight on victims of human trafficking has primarily focused on women and girls. It has been assumed that the majority of victims are females and the perpetrators are males. With new laws, arrests, and victims speaking out, it is now known that we must not forget about men and boys. Males are often discounted as victims and prevented from seeking help due to over generalization and stereotyping. Recent findings have indicated that the number of boys and girls within child sex trafficking is closer to equal, rather than one-sided (Greenbaum, 2014). With males comprising nearly half of the population of this horrendous and growing crime, stereotyping, biases, and over generalizations continue to run rampant, which can affect aspects of both physical and mental health.
Men and boys are often viewed as stronger and possessing the added ability to defend themselves, in contrast to women who are perceived as vulnerable and weak. Feminist philosophy posits our patriarchal society has negative effects for both genders. Feminism egalitarian stance and envisions a society that will one day place equal value on women and men. However, the negative effect is evident in the area of human trafficking where females are rescued more often than males. The fight for mental health is calling for equality, as it would be difficult and naïve to go on and say that the psychological damage is greater for one gender than the other, when in fact, males may be even more at risk because they face the assumption that they “should” be able to defend themselves more so than females.
Although male trafficked victims have much in common with female trafficked victims, age, economic status, sexual preference, and ethnicity holds no boundaries in who may become a victim. They are fearful for coming out with the truth regarding their sexual preference and identity, or may be nervous of what others perceive as their preference (e.g.. being portrayed as gay when they are not). Many boys and men are not only sex trafficked but forced into labor, stemming from survival needs such as shelter and food. Lured with financial promises and then threatened, there is no way out for many victims (Surtees, 2008). With financial hardship comes the will to do anything to live, and under false pretenses of a legal and legitimate opportunity, they are lured in. Once victimized, threats against life, the use of drugs for sedation, and a lack of resources may make it difficult, if not impossible, to escape. Although statistics differ across countries, this is a problem both at the domestic and foreign forefront. One assumption, wrongly so, is that these victims come from uneducated and low-income backgrounds, and have no family or support system. This incorrect assumption holds true for both the male and female victims.