Even with more awareness around sex trafficking, advocates say we’re forgetting an important demographic – boys.
Many resources are dedicated to girls and women, but when it comes to boys and young men, there’s just not enough to go around.
“Unfortunately my story is all too common,” Jerome Elam said.
Elam fits the description of only 10 to 15 percent of trafficking victims -- He’s male. But his story is similar to many who’ve had the traumatic experience of becoming a sex trafficking victim.
“He bought us gifts, took me to sporting events. We thought he was the answer to our prayers, but after 6 months he began molesting me,” Elam said.
His mother’s boyfriend became his abuser. Elam says it started when he was 5-years-old. It progressed from child porn to being taken to truck stops and sold for sex. It almost came to screeching halt when he turned 12.
“ I felt like there was no way out for me,” Elam explained. “So I went to my mother's medicine cabinet, got a bottle of sleeping pills, got a bottle of vodka.”
Elam survived his suicide attempt. Help came in the form of of therapy and sharing his story. When he was going through the worst of it, he would’ve benefited from someone like Amanda Corbin .
“With boys we see it so different,” Corbin said.
Corbin works with the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, based here in Tampa. The organization recently opened a safe house for male sex trafficking victims. Advocates call it the first of its kind.
“We had to model after a girls home and change it along the way,” Corbin said.
No one except organization members and first responders know where the safe house is located. Five boys can live there, which is a far cry from the amount of victims. The most recent report from 2016 identified 264 child trafficking victims in Florida alone.
Advocates who work at the safe house make sure the boys go to school and go on field trips.
“ If I can at least give you a glimmer of a normal, healthy safe life can be, then you at least have that nugget when you're down on your luck again,” Corbin said.
For more information on USIAHT and the work they’re doing to end human trafficking, you can head to their website at www.USIAHT.org