More effort needed to prevent boys entering prostitution

All agencies represented on area child protection committees
must develop a strategy to prevent boys and young men entering into
prostitution, a new Barnardo’s report has urged,
writes Anabel Unity Sale.

The report says: “Young people abused through prostitution are
one of the hardest groups to access. Therefore those agencies
involved in their protection will need to develop strategies to
actively seek them out, and where possible to actively investigate
and prosecute those who abuse them.”

The report dismisses the stereotypical image of rent boys
actively choosing to participate in sexual activity with men for
money as a myth, saying: “None of the young people are making truly
informed choices.”

It adds: “The extent of the problem regarding boys abused
through prostitution remains hidden. The ‘street scene’
is but one dimension of this phenomenon. Much activity occurs
‘behind closed doors’.”

The issue of boys and young men selling sex, the report says, is
not related to sexual orientation: “The abuse of boys and young men
selling sex is not a gay issue, but one of power and control by
predatory men, many of whom present as heterosexual.”

The report calls on the government to: “promote the sexual abuse
of children as a public health issue, which should include
awareness-raising of the existence of sexual exploitation through
abuse of boys”.

Anne van Meeuwen, Barnardo’s principal policy officer,
told Community Care: “We want all agencies, both
nationally and locally, to recognise that abuse from prostitution
is an issue for young men as well as young women.”

She said: “All agencies that make up an ACPC need to develop a
strategy looking at a range of interventions, from prevention
through to support for young men involved in this abusive
lifestyle. They must recognise that this is a problem.”

Van Meeuwen added that the department of health must look at
ways in which it can help agencies develop local services, and that
further research into the abuse of boys and young men through
prostitution was needed.

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