Having written a fiction book about a non-fiction topic, I fall in a middle space of needing to educate readers, but not going beyond my realm of knowledge. (That’s what the experts are for!) That said, I can only share what I know, and here’s what I know:
Despite active law enforcement efforts in the United States and the important role played by non-governmental agencies (NGOs), the sexual exploitation and trafficking of youth males remain significantly underreported. There are various reasons why a youth male might not report sexual abuse or trafficking. It's important to recognize that the decision not to report such incidents can be influenced by a combination of emotional, psychological, and societal factors.
1. Fear and Shame: Victims often grapple with intense fear, shame, and guilt, fearing retaliation, judgment, or disbelief. Male victims may face heightened fear due to societal stereotypes surrounding masculinity. (We need to do something about this.)
2. Stigma and Stereotypes: Societal expectations of gender roles can create additional barriers, as male victims may fear being perceived as weak or less masculine, deterring them from reporting abuse. (We need to do something about this too.)
3. Lack of Awareness: Some youth may not recognize certain behaviors as abuse or trafficking, especially if perpetrated by someone they know and trust. (Let’s just agree that we need to do something about everything on this list.)
4. Manipulation and Coercion: Perpetrators employ manipulation, coercion, or threats to control victims, making it difficult for them to escape or report the abuse.
5. Trust Issues: Victims may struggle with issues of trust, particularly if the abuser is someone they know or have a relationship with.
6. Lack of Support: The absence of a support system or fear of disbelief can discourage victims from coming forward.
7. Trauma and PTSD: Victims may experience trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), impacting their ability to disclose the abuse.
8. Legal Consequences: Fear of legal repercussions or involvement with law enforcement can be a significant barrier, especially if victims have been coerced into illegal activities.