NORTH CAROLINA -- A safe house just for male victims of human sex trafficking is set to open later this year in North Carolina, and experts say it’s a much-needed resource.
Mark Blackwell, president of Justice Ministries, said, “In the past three years or so, we've had about 245 clients, four of which were boys.”
That's a small number, but experts say that's not an accurate representation of reality when it comes to human trafficking among boys and men.
Chris Smith with Restore One said, “You know, growing up, you're told to be a man. You know you don't cry. You don't share your feelings, so if a boy were to come forward or a man come forward to share his story, there's a lot of shame associated with that.”
According to a group called ECPAT USA, “Ending Child Slavery at the Source” about half of human trafficking victims, both sex and labor, are young boys and men.
But experts say still, not many people know that both men and women can be trafficking victims.
Lisa Thompson, vice president of education and outreach at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, told TWC News, “We often hear, 'Oh, that doesn't happen here. Oh, that's not a problem in our community.' But once people know how to identify trafficking, and they start to recognize the signs, suddenly they say, 'Oh, that's actually happening here.'”
And resources can be hard-to-find.
Blackwell said, “An issue we ran into is there's limited resources. There's limited housing options for them. There's limited care. Right now you have mother-baby homes. You have women's homes. It's easier a girl or a young lady to stay there. But for boys, they don't fit the demographic of the current availability of shelter space.”
However, one organization in North Carolina is trying to change that.
Restore One built a safe home in Greenville to help boys between 12 and 18.
It's set to open late spring.
The hope is this will open up more opportunities for victims to come forward and for the community to reach out and help.
You can report human trafficking anytime anywhere by calling this 24/7 hotline: 1-888-373-7888
To learn more about Justice Ministries, click here.
To learn more about Restore One and its Anchor House, click here.