A growing number of young males — some just ten years old — are being forced into the sex trade in the United States, with traffickers dressing some little boys as girls before selling them.
Geoff Rogers, co-founder of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), recently told Fox News that most Americans don’t realize that boys — and not just girls — are commonly victimized by the sex trafficking industry.
“When you think about the magnitude of the problem, the number of kids being sold for sex here in America, most people think of girls,” he said, “and certainly there's a tremendous number of girls being sold. But if we look at one particular study funded by the Department of Justice … that study identified an estimated 36 percent of kids that are trafficked are boys.”
Kevin Malone, USIAHT co-founder and former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, told Fox that sometimes, traffickers dress young boys as girls before selling them.
“I noticed when I went to the Super Bowl in Phoenix a few years ago, that there were ... boys being trafficked there,” Malone said. “What we found, even there, were little boys dressed up as girls and being sold.”
“So I think that was the first time I realized, apart from when I was in Thailand and met a 5-year-old boy that had been trafficked, but in America when I realized at the Super Bowl that these traffickers were selling boys, and sometimes dressing them up as little girls, it kind of opened my eyes to the problem," Malone said.
In 2016, a Department of Justice-commissioned study, Youth Involvement in the Sex Trade, found that boys make up about 36 percent of children caught up in the U.S. sex industry.
Additionally, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that the average age a boy enters the commercial sex trade is between 11 and 13.
But despite the magnitude of the issue, services to help young boys escape a life of trafficking are virtually nonexistent.
In 2017, Malone and Roger opened the first safe home for young male trafficking victims. The first of its kind in the nation, the home in a remote part of Florida helps victims between the ages of 10 and 17 through counseling and rehabilitation programs.
“Over the last two years, we've worked with boys 15, 16, 17 years old. That's been predominantly who we worked with, up until several weeks ago, when we got the first phone call about a 10-year-old boy,” Rogers said.
Learning about what the little boy had endured in his past, Rogers told WTSP, was “horrifying.”
“He can’t read, he can’t write. He’s never been to school. He has no concept of math or money. When he came in, he didn’t even know when his own birthday was,” Rogers said.
Many of the victims were coerced into a life of sexual slavery by a trusted adult, Malone and Rogers revealed, with 50 to 60 percent coming out of foster care.
They shared the story of “Alex,” who was 13-years-old when he ran away from foster care. At a bus station, Alex met a man who offered to let him stay with him – in exchange for sex. Alex was eventually forced to have sex with other men, as well.
As a teenager, “Ryan” was sold by his mother for sex with an older man. Eventually, she convinced several of Ryan's friends to sell themselves as well, though she kept most of the profits for herself.
Boys continue to be overlooked in efforts to combat trafficking, Malone said, emphasizing that change won’t happen until people begin to acknowledge that boys are also victims who face their own set of unique challenges.
“I believe the biggest problem we have is the lack of empathy, and a lack of compassion, and a lack of concern by Americans who really are generally the most loving, and concerning, and giving, and helpful people in the world,” he said.
Raleigh Sadler, founder of Let My People Go, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping churches fight human trafficking, previously told The Christian Post that Christians are uniquely positioned to help those exploited by the sex trade.
“There are a lot of well-meaning Christians who want to do something about human trafficking, especially after they hear about it,” he said. “But when they hear that millions of people are held in modern-day slavery around the world, it's very easy to feel overwhelmed. So rather than doing something, they do nothing."
“God's design for the church to end trafficking, I firmly believe, is through vulnerable people like you and me, loving other vulnerable people because Christ was made vulnerable for us,” he said. “Throughout Scripture, Jesus was always present with vulnerable populations — and so that's what they did, and they saved countless lives as a result.”
Previously, Christine Caine, evangelist and head of the anti-trafficking ministry A21, said the quickest way to end the sex trafficking epidemic is for people to stop consuming pornography.
“Here I am trying to put traffickers in jail and you’re watching ‘Game of Thrones,’” she continued, referring to the show’s graphic nudity.
Many types of pornography, Caine warned, are actually products of sex trafficking.
"Nothing is free," she said. "Porn costs somebody."