EXPLOITED: Boys — the silent victims of sex trafficking

Feb 8, 2018 by

IndyStar columnist Tim Swarens spent a year investigating the commercial sex trade of children, a lucrative business where more than 1 million kids a year are abused. This is the fourth of 10 columns in the EXPLOITED series.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The silence nearly killed Tom Jones.

As a child, Jones was raped, abused and sold to men for sex. The brutality ended when he was 15. But, like many male victims, Jones didn’t seek help, didn’t tell anyone about the trauma he had suffered.

Instead, he buried his pain and shame deep inside, carrying the burden alone and in silence for another 15 years.

Silence did not equal acceptance. “I’m lucky because I shouldn’t be here,” Jones says. “I put a lot of focus and energy into taking my own life.”

Two suicide attempts failed. And Jones says he was preparing for a third attempt when he decided finally to reach out for help.

Even then, years after the exploitation ended, it was difficult for Jones to acknowledge what he had suffered. “I was very ashamed to talk to a therapist who I knew cared about me,” he says.

When we talk about sex trafficking, we often talk about girls. It’s true they are more likely to be victims. But there are boys who are drawn into this dark world, and who feel forgotten. Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar

“Key informants pointed out their belief that law enforcement has very little understanding of (commercially exploited) boys. For example, when filing human trafficking reports, they would often ask: ‘Why couldn’t he get away? He’s a boy.’ One informant said she was forced to explain to law enforcement professionals before filing a report that boys and young men can be bought and sold just like girls.”

Source: EXPLOITED: Boys — the silent victims of sex trafficking

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