Child sexual exploitation is a profound challenge to our society and to countries around the globe. Given the scale and persistence of the problem, it is an issue that requires all parts of our community to contribute to the solution. And we are fortunate to live an era that recognizes the horrors of modern slavery and has taken initial steps to address it. However, there is one element of society that can have a disproportionate impact in bringing child sexual exploitation to an end, and that is men.
The uncomfortable truth for men in our country is that we are the source of the primary problem of child trafficking. Men mindlessly look at pornography without considering if the “barely legal” girls in the video are actually adults and consenting. They frequent strip clubs where underage boys and girls are often first forced into prostitution. They go online and purchase sex anonymously from pimps who groom children and force them into the lifestyle. The studies show that the average sex buyer in America looks very much like the average man overall. He is usually, white, married and has a full-time job. Looking in the mirror and seeing yourself in this context is uncomfortable. So it is unsurprising that men across America are largely disengaged from advocating to stop trafficking, and the bulk of the advocacy work is carried out by women.
But this is unsustainable. Men purchase sex from children, but men are also fathers of missing girls, and they are searching desperately for their daughters. Boys and young men are victims of sexual exploitation, and studies suggest that their numbers are likely meaningfully undercounted by current statistics. Of course in child labor trafficking, boys are nearly as likely to be forced into this form of slavery as girls. So, in spite of the fact that the preponderance of buyers and pimps are men, the truth is that men and women, boys and girls all have their lives tragically impacted by human trafficking. And if we are going to address the issue as a society, men must also become advocates for reform.
In that regard, there was a ray of sunshine last month at an event in New York City hosted by the Duane Morris law firm, and the National Council of Jewish Women entitled “Sex Trafficking: A Wakeup Call, An Event for Men.” The well attended event drew interested men from around the city to an informational and awareness raising session. The focus of the panel was a distinguished panel of men from the New York City area that were working in the human trafficking arena.
The Panelists included; Ted Bunch, of A Call to Men, and advocacy organization that seeks to engage men in ending violence and discrimination against women and girls; Judge Fernando Camacho who founded New York’s Human Trafficking Intervention Court; Anthony Favale a former detective in NYPD’s Vice Unit, who spent nearly 30 years addressing human trafficking cases; and Ronald Richter, current head of JCCA one of New York’s largest and oldest child services organizations, and former member of the NYC Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board.
The participants were all provided with a take action packet, and also were able to send a letter to the New York State Assembly in support of the End Child Sex Trafficking Bill (A.6823-B/S5988-A) via a text from their phones that evening. There was a lot of enthusiasm following the event, and it looks like there will be a follow up meeting sometime this summer. At ECPAT-USA, we take this excellent work as a very positive development, and intend to participate and lend our support to this effort. This new effort could play an important complementary role to our alliance with World Without Exploitation, and their Men’s Engagement Working Group.
For men interested in participating, we will relay details on the ECPAT-USA website and Twitter Feed as more details become available.