A couple from North Carolina is in the final stages of constructing a shelter for young men who are victims of sex trafficking. The Anchor House will be located in Greene County, North Carolina and will provide shelter, education, rehabilitation and nutrition to the victims at no cost.
Anna and Chris Smith did not initially set out to advocate for male victims. On the contrary, when they co-founded their organization, Restore One Inc., they intended to promote awareness for young girls who had fallen victim to sex trafficking. Through this endeavor, the Smiths realized how often advocates overlook young boys forced into the sex trade. One study hypothesized that half of the trafficked minors in New York City are boys, yet advocacy groups tend to focus their efforts solely on female victims. After discovering these statistics, the Smiths came up with the idea for Anchor House, which will be the first shelter in America dedicated exclusively to male victims.
The Smiths’ advocacy should serve as a reminder that sex-trafficking is not a gender specific issue. Local victims’ advocate, consultant and survivor leader, David Wayne, shared how gender-specific support effects male victims:
“This is about anyone in a position to manipulate or have power over the vulnerable. Regardless of gender, sexual exploitation and sexual violence are equal opportunity destroyers. Responding to the inequality we see targeting girls and women with inequality that overlooks or minimizes male victimization helps no one.”
– David Wayne, Pennsylvania Sex-Trafficking Advocate, Consultant and Survivor leader
Male victims have limited resources, and they are less likely to seek the help they need because their victimization is so often overshadowed by that of female victims. More often than not, these men feel silenced by gender norms and the social constructs that portray victims as vulnerable, young women. The Anchor House reminds us that men and boys can be victims, too, and we must work to bring greater attention to the needs of these victims in our own communities. The CSE Institute would like to applaud Anna and Chris Smith and their organization, Restore One Inc., in their efforts to combat sex trafficking and shed light on the plight of male sex trafficking victims in the United States.