When we say we want to provide prevention education, we want to speak directly with youth, making them aware of the tactics of traffickers, the signs of exploitation, and the services available to them should they find themselves in at-risk or exploitative situations.
Last month, Love146’s Connecticut Training and Outreach Coordinator, Nicole von Oy, and one of our Prevention Education Interns, Stephanie, were invited to provide prevention education to students at an alternative high school. In this particular classroom, they were speaking with a group of all boys.
Part of the curriculum is designed to highlight how society will sometimes blame victims. We wanted to tell these students that victims aren’t responsible for what happens. We wanted to dispel the myth that this only happens to girls. Boys are exploited in similar ways.
In fact, it’s estimated that one in six boys in America are sexually abused before the age of 18.
It was after they shared this, and the reality that it’s not uncommon for boys to be abused, that a young man began to open up about his own experiences.
Malik, now a senior in high school, disclosed abuse that happened when he was much younger.
A babysitter that he was often taken to as a child would get drunk and sexually abuse Malik. Every time his grandmother dropped him off, he would kick and scream but no one knew why. He never shared with anyone what happened during the days spent there — until now.
Years later, while sharing these stories for the first time, the trauma was still present when he spoke. Young men often feel the need to hold back emotion, to maintain a strong machismo character — but Nicole and Stephanie noticed this façade begin to fade.
Malik remained confident when sharing, and the other boys in the class silent and respectful. He was not ashamed, and his courage was inspiring.
We often have students connecting the dots of sexual exploitation with trauma and abuse they have experienced within their own lives. In many cases, this is the first time they have shared openly about their experiences. That is why we need to be there for children not only as educators — but as listeners.
…and help us continue to care for the vulnerable by educating — and listening.