NYC's dark secret: The truth about male sex trafficking

New York City and the country have a dark secret.  When you think of sex trafficking, you tend to think of women and girls. But experts say up to 50% of youths trafficked nationally are male.

Ashley Mastronardi

Jan 10, 2024, 8:46 PM

Updated 155 days ago

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New York City and the country have a dark secret.  When you think of sex trafficking, you tend to think of women and girls. But experts say up to 50% of youths trafficked nationally are male.
“The reason I am disguised today is because I have identifiable tattoos that can be noticed by different traffickers ... I chose for my protection to be covered up,” someone we’ll call “John” told News 12 New York.  
He's afraid to show his face, but John is the face of male sex trafficking.  We’ve changed his name for his protection. At 5 years old, he was molested by his adoptive father. After that, he was in and out of foster care. “At 18, I was just by myself,” he said.  “I had nowhere to go, I didn’t have the right support system and the psychological effects of the trauma led me to drugs and alcohol.” 
It also led him into the grips of sex traffickers.  
“I found myself taking an offer to go to another state to better my life ... that’s when the trafficking really came in place,” he said. John was rescued by the FBI 19 months ago and sent to Ranch Hands Rescue in Texas – a recovery haven for male trafficking survivors.  It’s run by Bob Williams, a survivor himself. Williams says male trafficking victims are brutalized – both emotionally and physically. 
“We’ve had several that have had to have rectal surgery ... they come in and they’re bleeding. There’s boys that have had glass stuck in their feet. There are dislocated shoulders, hand bones from beatings,” Williams said. 
Ranch Hands Rescue put up a billboard in Times Square this past summer to get the word out about male trafficking. Williams says New York City is the fourth-largest hub for sex trafficking in the nation. 
“Wherever you bring large amounts of people, trafficking is going to happen. You can sell a child or an individual six to eight times a day, you can sell drugs one time. Every seven minutes, we know that a young man is sex trafficked. The myth is boys can get away, and the reality is they can’t,” he said. 
That was John’s reality.  Now a year and a half later, he’s healing his trauma in community. He’s recovering by helping others at Ranch Hands Rescue. He’s even pursuing a degree in psychology so he can become a counselor. 
“I've been able to become a mentor to the other guys who are here in the program and really be understanding and giving that empathy and courtesy of, 'Hey, I know what we’re going to get through this.' Because we are a family and really redefine what family looks like.”
Experts say some signs of males being trafficked are if they’re wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather, have multiple phones or large amounts of cash. They say you can approach if it feels safe to do so. Otherwise, you can call local law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.  
Click HERE to donate to Ranch Hands Rescue.


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