SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County D.A.’s Office held a summit today to raise awareness about boys who become victims of sex trafficking. Studies show boys who are victimized are often under reported.
Pay close attention to the campaign ads on billboards, social media and on radio. On Friday, the D.A. kicked off a month-long campaign to bring attention to boys who are vulnerable to being trafficked.
San Diego ranks 13th in the country for human sex trafficking, with up to 8,000 victims a year. San Diego County agencies and other anti-sex trafficking organizations want people to know that boys are at risk too.
“What we found, and it was surprising to us, is that a lot of the gangs, they found that getting involved in sex trafficking of children, girls and boys, was much more profitable for them than even drugs,” said Walter Phillips, San Diego Youth Services CEO.
The San Diego Freedom Center says San Diego’s sex trafficking economy grosses $810 million a year. The D.A. says a national study shows boys are up to 50% of children being sexually exploited.
“People don’t know about other forms of trafficking for boys and also girls, like candy sales, magazine sales. Obviously, the most vulnerable children are the homeless runaway boys that are out there and those are recruited in a different way. Most of them are recruited for pornography,” said Marisa Ugarte, Executive Director of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition.
The average age of boys entering sex trafficking is between 11 and 13 years old. Phillips says society doesn’t always recognize boys as victims of sexual abuse.
“Frankly, I think that even law enforcement and the community doesn’t see that maybe a boy is in a dangerous exploitive situation where they’re being abused and really being a victim,” Phillips said.
Ugarte says parents need to learn how predators entice children and talk to them about it. Parents should also monitor their computers and phones so they know who they’re talking with.
For information about child sex trafficking, click: Protect San Diego Kids
WATCH RELATED: A former San Diego strip club will become a resource center for sex trafficking victims (Aug. 2021).