As our movement works to end sexual exploitation, we must not forget the sexual exploitation of boys and men. Male victims of sexual abuse, violence, trafficking and more are suffering right here in America today. And their suffering matters. That is why we are working as a movement and launching concerted efforts — from public events to research projects — to expose the complex web of sexual exploitation affecting boys and men.
Of course, if you hear Tom Jones’ testimony, you will never forget this issue is worth addressing. He shared his heart-wrenching story at a historic event we co-hosted with the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT) and Washington College this past week. Our goal is to change the way we approach — or often fail to approach — the suffering of boys and men who are sexually exploited.
When Tom Jones was born, his mother died in childbirth. His father spent Tom’s entire childhood blaming Tom for his mother’s death. Worse, his father began to sell him into prostitution beginning at age 6. Tom would suffer through this degradation and abuse for about a decade before breaking free. But years of depression would follow. He struggled with his sexuality and broken relationships. He even spent some time selling himself in prostitution to support his younger half-sister and then-girlfriend.
But after years of forced smiles and the cloud of depression, eventually, Tom joined the Navy and sought counseling. He took charge of his own life. He met the woman who would become his wife and the mother of his children.
Eventually, Tom was able to find peace and healing, but it was not an easy journey. However, his triumphant story is cause for hope. Literally, Tom Jones would go on to found the H.O.P.E Project, which stands for Healing, Outreach, and Peer Empowerment. He would not let the sexual exploitation of boys and men go unaddressed, unhealed. That is what the H.O.P.E. Project is all about. Tom an inspiration to all who hear him speak and to those who seek help through the H.O.P.E. Project. And he wants other sexually exploited boys and men to find their voice, to seek community, and to attain healing and empowerment. Today, there is not enough help for male victims of sexual exploitation in our society, and Tom is working to change that.
Shining Light on the Sexual Exploitation of Boys and Men
Tom Jones is a light in the dark world of male sexual exploitation — a phenomenon that goes unnoticed and unaddressed all too often. He is one person, making a big impact. But we live in a very big world, and it is brimming with the sexual exploitation of boys and men. That’s why, at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, we want to address this issue directly, in a way our movement has yet to do.
Over the course of three days, we held a press conference at the National Press Club, a symposium and Miracle Theatre with nearly 200 attendees, and a series of talks for students at Washington College.
We heard from a recovered pornography addict, Alex Rhodes. Rhodes helps many others do the same through his website, NoFap. He identified the many harms pornography inflicts on individuals and relationships.
Similarly, Dr. Mary Anne Layden addressed the adverse effects of pornography on men, delving into the psychological effects and the impacts on the brain.
In addition, we heard from a professor, Dr. Joseph Prud’Homme of Washington College, who explained how corrosive sexual objectification is to males in our culture.
Geoff Rodgers and Kevin Malone of USIAHT expressed their outrage at the trafficking of boys and men. They are dismayed by the silence we hear from our society. However, they also gave us hope, describing the opening of their first boys safe house in Florida, for male victims of sex trafficking.
Carol Smolenski, Executive Director and Co-Founder of ECPAT-USA, also explained why we should no longer describe sexual exploitation as phenomena primarily affecting females, with only passing mentions of male victims.
Our own Haley Halverson tied it all together, shedding light on why we must address the problem of the exploitation of boys and men directly.
Getting Inspired, Getting Involved!
If you weren’t able to join us, and you want to learn more about the sexual exploitation of boys and men, you can watch the video of our symposium right here and here. (We’ll be embedding the professional video as soon as we get it from our videographer).