Chris Anderson of Male Survivor explains that males are being trafficked and exploited at higher levels than most people assume.
Recently, noted NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof posted a column titled, “When Emily Was Sold for Sex”. Kristof, long an outspoken advocate for the rights of women and girls around the world, has never been nearly as vocal in support for the rights of boys and men who are abused and exploited, although research from ECPAT, John Jay College, and reports from many international organizations suggest that the rates at which males are sexually trafficked and abused is far higher than most people assume. Responding to a comment I made raising this point on his Facebook post the column, Kristof himself wrote the following:
“Men and boys are indeed sexually exploited, but at far lower rates than women and girls. And while there are underage boys in the sex trade, they are far fewer than underage girls and far less likely to have pimps. So i agree that it’s an issue that should get more attention (especially in south Asia and west Asia), but the scale is not remotely the same as the trafficking of women and girls.”
I posted the following comment responding to his reply, that I felt was important to share with the GMP community. Especially in light of Cameron Conaway’s outstanding article on The Disposability of Boys:
“Mr. Kristof, thank you for clarifying your position regarding male survivors of sex trafficking and sexual violence. With all due respect, I believe you are misinformed regarding the prevalence rates of sexual violence and trafficking against males. ECPAT, John Jay College, and a number of international organizations have released studies and reports that suggest that prevalence rates may be equal between males and females. At the very least there is no doubt that male victims of trafficking are far less visible than female victims, and far less likely to receive any support at all from NGO’s and Government agencies as a result. There is no question but that the traditional stats that many in the anti – trafficking field quote that only 2 % of trafficking victims are male is a gross under reporting of the true statistics. Further this is a serious issue here in the US as well as in Asia.
Are you aware that the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Victimization survey actually shows that the overall prevalence rate of sexual violence (for ALL forms of sexual violence, not just rape) is almost 1 in 4 for males and more than 1 in 2 for females? Without question the rate of sexual violence against females is atrociously high. But can we really pretend that the prevalence rate of sexual violence against males is statistically insignificant in comparison? More men are victims of sexual violence than have diabetes, heart disease, or prostate cancer!
Regardless, what good does it do to shun ANY survivor of sexual violence? If you truly believe that sexual violence requires a universal response, it is imperative that we find ways to provide support to EVERY survivor regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, faith, or age. To deny that any survivor is less worthy of the full measure of our compassion is needlessly divisive and counterproductive. Supporting male survivors does not detract from the work of protecting females. As the courageous MST survivors who testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee all said at last year’s hearings sexual violence is not a “pink” issue. It’s a human one.
Your position is, in essence, sadly dismissive of the vast majority of male victims. Even more tragically, it is a position favored by far too many people I have encountered who have dedicated their lived to sexual violence prevention. It is precisely the kind of willful blindness that leaves many millions of people are far greater risk and far less likely to get access to help. It is especially disheartening to hear you say that the prevalence of sexual violence against males is so disproportionately small as compared to sexual violence against women that promoting awareness of male victimization actually detracts from the vitally important work of helping improve the lot of women. I would argue that helping one half of the human race while stigmatizing the other only exacerbates the problems we face.
I encourage you to strongly consider taking at least one column to write about male victimization issues. There are over 25 million male survivors in the US alone, well over 500 million worldwide. Last year, malesurvivor.org saw over 400,000 visitors to our website from over 150 countries worldwide. Without doubt there are enough of us out here to warrant at least an iota of the compassion and support you’ve expressed so eloquently for female survivors.”
To his credit, Kristof did reply via Twitter to me thus:
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) February 14, 2014
However, Kristof’s perspective – that male abuse happens on a miniscule scale as compared to abuse of females – is one that I have heard time and again. Champions for the rights of sexual abuse survivors often feel a need to qualify their support of male survivors. As Cameron himself did with a disclaimer at the top of his piece to emphasize that standing up for the rights of the abused is not an either or proposition based on gender. Sadly, however this disconnect between women’s rights and human rights (or the dominance of the later by the former) continues to be a major obstacle in the effort to create a social response to sexual violence that is gender inclusive.
But advocates such as MaleSurvivor, Cameron, and our many partners will continue to work tirelessly to see that no victim is left behind. I hope that we will get the opportunity to share with Kristof more information about male survivors. Perhaps someday a trafficked boy named Edgar can hope for some of the same help that Kristof urged we give to one named Emily. It is well past time that we have separate and unequal responses for victims of sexual violence based upon the gender of the survivor.
Photo: Flickr/Rev Stan