Barnardo’s have released research funded by the Home Office which indicates that professionals may have difficulty in identifying and engaging boys and young men in terms of their history of abuse and trauma, often failing to recognise them as victims.
Behaviour that might trigger concerns that girls are at risk is sometimes put down to ‘boys being boys’, leaving many victims without the specialist support they need and creating barriers that stop boys talking about abuse suffered.
The Barnardo BOYS2 research studied male survivors of child sexual exploitation and heard how many had endured difficulties including chaotic home environments, domestic violence and unstable living arrangements, often moving between care and extended family.
It also reported poor relationships and sex education in schools, a lack of pastoral support, with many having low self-esteem and feeling lonely and isolated, or excluded from support networks.
A lack of healthy attachment to others and a need to find a place in their peer group made them vulnerable to developing unsuitable social networks, which had brought them into contact with sexual and criminal exploitation.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:
'Boys who have been sexually exploited will be traumatised by their experience unless they get the support they desperately need early on. It is vital professionals know how to recognise boys as victims too, so they have the best chance of recovering from their ordeals.
We now hope to reinforce this research across the UK and will continue fighting to change perceptions so young male victims aren’t prevented from getting the right support'.