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Connecting the Dots during Human Trafficking Awareness Month: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog

It’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month. People are making signs, marching in the streets and learning how to integrate trauma-informed care into their client services. We think of the children in other countries being exploited for labor and sexual misuse. More recently, we’ve done a good job recognizing domestic minor sex trafficking, the forced prostitution of minors in our very own communities. I’m proud to say that countless organizations and law enforcement agencies have addressed the practice of arresting minors for what we used to call underage prostitution. Law enforcement agencies are now identifying these minors as survivors of exploitation and not minors willfully engaging in criminal activity. 

I’ll give you a split second to pat yourselves on the back. Done? Good, because we have more work to do. It’s time to connect the dots between childhood sexual abuse and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. But wait, I’m not done, don’t forget the boys! I find myself constantly saying “boys and men too!” After teaching sexual violence prevention to incarcerated men, I learned quickly that we had forgotten the them. Men are also survivors of child sexual abuse and must also be included in this conversation. 

It is important to state that boys and subsequently men have also experienced this manipulation and as a result are also susceptible to being coerced into commercial sexual exploitation. Stereotypes of masculinity make it difficult for many people to imagine a boy or young man being exploited. We force men into this constant frame of provider, protector and emotionless stoicism. More importantly and unfortunately, we apply this mentality to boys. “Why didn’t he just leave?” “Why does he allow someone to film him?” “He must be gay if he is a prostitute.” We fail to take into account the variables of poverty, homophobia, abuse and how those variables correlate to present behaviors. No wonder men feel less inclined to disclose abuse or reach out for services. We can’t only mention girls and women in our policies, services, flyers, websites, rallies and marches. 

Connecting the dots can get complicated when there are so many, well, dots. What we do know is that at least 1 in 6 men have had an unwanted sexual experience before the age of 18. We do know that many of those men were emotionally or physically coerced by someone they trusted. So when you are advocating for children and girls, remember the boys. Remember that those boys grow up to be men and need our awareness, compassion and resources to heal. I urge you to remember the men. Read more on the Joyful Heart Foundation

-By Martha Lucia Marin 
Community Education, Outreach & Awareness Director for 1in6 

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Martha is a Colombian native raised in L.A. and South Florida where she received a B.A. in Business Management from the University of North FL. She brings us a unique set of skills acquired from many years of for-profit management and a deep dedication to human rights. As a Program Coordinator for the Women’s Center of Jacksonville and FL Dept. of Health, she taught thousands of students on topics related to the prevention of sexual assault including cyber bullying, LGBTQ/sexual harassment and teen dating violence as well as human trafficking. Martha is a public speaker, consultant and professional trainer.

Most recently she served as the Chair of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition. Her international projects include a large-scale bi-lingual internship for the USAID Scholarship for Economic Education and Development at FL State College at Jacksonville. Martha first identified the lack of services for male survivors while teaching at a correctional facility. The need was overwhelming. In response she developed the life skills and healing curriculum, “YOU ARE WORTHY”!

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