Phil Mitchell is Project Co-ordinator for the BLAST Project in Yorkshire, the UK's leading project for male victims of sexual exploitation project. Here he explains how mainstream services overlook men and boys who need help.
---This is article #10 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
Boys and young men are often overlooked when it comes to sexual exploitation. People think they are tough and that they can look after themselves.
Services were originally set up for girls, not boys. Walls were painted pink and the imagery was of girls. This is not accessible to our inclusive of boys. Girls are being taught how to stay safe whilst boys are being taught something else. Then of course there’s all of the gender stereotypes around masculinity, sexual orientation and asking for help.
People wrongly assume that this is an issue that affects girls, not boys but we need to be factual. Girls report more, girls disclose more and girls engage with service some – this does not mean it’s happening less to boys. Also professionals generally look out for girls a lot more in comparison to boys.
A professional may see a 13 year old girl in a situation with an older man and become concerned. If the same professional sees a 13 year old boy with the same man, the level of concern is not always the same. This is something that needs to change. The only thing that is different is the gender –the risk is still the same, so why do some professionals respond in such a way that promotes inequality for boys?
Boys of all sexualities are at risk
Boys and young men who are gay or bisexual have additional vulnerabilities as they may feel isolated due to other sexual orientation which could lead them to seek older boyfriends as they don’t know where to meet other LGBT people around their own age.
Boys and young men who are gay, bisexual or exploring their sexuality are often given the message that they should be thinking about sex and that they should be having sex and this message is communicated to them much louder than it is to their heterosexual peers.
A 15 year old Heterosexual boy may attend a youth group and where posters and images are age appropriate. A 15 year old boy who is gay and attends an LGBT youth group may have access to sexualised magazines with half naked people on the cover and phone numbers of male sex workers at the back. This becomes further problematic if the boy thinks age does not matter and feels encouraged to seek an older sexual partner.
There is no doubt that both girls and boys who are sexually exploited need more help and support. In general, boys of all backgrounds who face sexual exploitation are less likely to receive help than girls, that's why it's essential that we make sure that services up and down the country are providing support that is accessible to an inclusive of boys.
---Picture credit: Flickr/WeNews
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men's Day 2014 by clicking on this link---#100Voices4Men---and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
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