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As I sat here at the Institute for Justice in Washington, DC, I’m only two blocks from the White House. But around the corner is a hotel where Shared Hope had its first few JUST conferences, just meaning juvenile sex trafficking. In one of those events, there was something shown. And it got silent and out of the silence, there was a “What about men?” Okay, then another man said, “Yeah, what about men?” and another to show clearly, there were three of them, at least, that were willing to speak out. And from there, the issues of male sex trafficking of these boys in America became a regular part of the JUST conference.
Hello, and welcome to Invading the Darkness: stories from the fight against child sex trafficking, featuring Linda Smith, the founder of Shared Hope International. Join Linda, as she shares stories from her 23 years of fighting the battle of domestic minor sex trafficking. Our desire is that each episode of Invading the Darkness will help you understand the importance of fighting child sex trafficking, as well as equip you to join in that fight. In this episode, Linda addresses one of the questions people often ask in the anti trafficking movement. What about the boys?
Shared Hope annually has what we call the JUST conference. And we’ve had a couple we call the JUST faith conference, pulling people together to learn and to teach the best practices or the upcoming practices, in many cases, in one of them. We showed the pictures of 12 traffic victims, and then the adult would talk about where they are today. The victory of overcoming. And now they want to all speak about the trafficking so they can help other women and children. The music came up behind the first little girl, and there was sorrow, signs of sorrows, oh. And then there was another little girl, and then another girl. Then the next picture up, is a little boy sitting in a chair is probably eight to ten. And the whole room went, “Oh!” They weren’t ready to see a trafficked boy. They weren’t ready to hear that story. And yet many people in the room had been fighting trafficking and were coming together to reinforce what they were doing to strengthen their resolve. And yet, boys are trafficked too? And I was reminded of my first time of becoming aware of trafficking of boys. And normally they’re under 13, sometimes younger, quite a bit younger. But I wasn’t ready for it.
I was in South Africa. We were doing research for the US government. We’re going in, and we’re doing interviews, there were people that went in as if they were traffickers. And we’re trying to find out what was happening. So one of the traffickers, a young man who first said that he was just going to tell us about the other traffickers. We realized after a while, he was a trafficker, too. And he described how supposedly this other person had been picking up boys in the parks, and delivering them to the airline stewards and pilots. And how these men would use the boys for a period of time. And at times, the actual rape of the boys was so violent, that he’d have to turn up the music so that he didn’t hear the screaming. And that’s how I found out about boys. You better know, inside at least I was going, “I don’t know. Is society not going to ever be ready?” I know that for me, it was such a shock and so much hurt. But I also know that the laws need to apply to little boys too. The practice of law needs to apply to little boys too or young young boys or teenage boys, but normally by teenage they’re not going to be what the trafficker wants to buy.
So, boys, did you just turn me off? Did you just say, “Oh, this is too much for me today?” Or can you hear a little bit more, I realized that even though I was repulsed, I had been helping little boys, since the first night in the brothel. It was the day after. And I realized the little boys I’d seen sleeping on the streets that were using sniffing glue and other things to help them relieve the cold and the pain. These were trafficked boys, too. Another way was tourists would come in men would come in that liked little boys. And they would give them food for acts. Sometimes there was a particularly good specimen. Somebody would take them to an apartment, or take them to a hotel, and sell them out of there, once they gave them a good bath and cleaned them up. Because that’s the way the customers liked them.
We started helping with street ministry to those boys, Teen Challenge of Mumbai was ministering to those boys, was trying to help them. We came along and help the mommies, the girls ,and then the boys too. One gift I’ve had is a friend who I took to India the year after we started the villages. And she says Linda, we need to bring presents just as good for the boys as the girls. And she realized she didn’t think I had that I had brought the right things to the boys. So she and one of the leaders would put their foot on a piece of paper draw rounded, and they went and got all the boys tennis shoes. Because you know, they played soccer, they call it football there. And they could then run and not hurt their feet. All of them got new shoes. Because see, she was brought alongside Shared Hope ministry to love the boys. And the ministry of Shared Hope, the outreach, the services to boys has been something growing over the years. But it was very hard for us to know how to start in the United States how to acknowledge that boys were trafficked too. Even though we have these big events every year where we all come together, it took nearly to 2014, not very long ago, for us to finally have a panel of men who had been trafficked as boys for pornography and direct sale.
Now the society is probably going to have a little tougher time getting up providing the services, the appropriate services for boys. They’re not the same as girls and their hurt is not the same. And we need to treat them as the boy they are. But also meet them where they are. So if this touches your heart today, just even go to Shared Hope’s site. You can see where the resources are, you can reach out to us to ask about work that’s being done. And they’ll probably have a young man that actually hasn’t worked for boys. Come on at some point soon. He himself is a teacher. He is actually an interim principal, I think right now. And he has a love for boys. So Shared Hope does have and it’s helping a group that has a Home for Boys. And we’re trying to be there for men who will stand up and say I was trafficked to
Thank you for listening to Invading the Darkness: stories from the fight against child sex trafficking. If you would like to learn how you can help put an end to child sex trafficking, please visit sharedhope.org/takeaction. New episodes of Invading the Darkness are released every Tuesday at 9am Pacific. If you have enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving us a five star rating as well as a written review. Join us in episode eight as Linda shares her perspective on restoration versus rescue. We hope you will join us. Thank you again for listening to Invading the Darkness.