The abuse and exploitation of all children, boys and girls, has existed for centuries. However, exploitation of boys is often hidden in the shadows or misunderstood. Less is known about boys - how they are victimized, the dynamics of sexual exploitation, how it affects them and their expressed needs. As a result, sexual exploitation and abuse of boys is less likely to be recognized and accepted. Research and consultations conducted with partners and regional staff in Asia, Africa and Latin America have highlighted that boys are less likely to be believed, protected and supported, often facing discrimination. We know even less about boys who may identify as gay, bisexual, or transgender and as a result they are further marginalized, vulnerable and isolated.
Thankfully, awareness of the issues for boys has been increasing globally in recent times, and in the settings in which the Down to Zero Alliance works. As a result, we have witnessed a significant demand for help from boys, and a need for resources for those seeking to protect and support them.
Practitioners and service providers are engaging with and listening to boys more, and learning a great deal. However, many service providers are also telling us that they need more help to meet boys’ needs.
Traditional, social and cultural beliefs, gender norms, attitudes and behaviours, and even legislation, significantly impact on the visibility, recognition and acceptance of the issue. This restricts boys’ ability to speak out and seek support leaving many boys marginalized, isolated and vulnerable.
Down to Zero Alliance is aiming to address these issues. The Alliance proudly presents the ‘Bridging the Gap’ toolkit, designed to support service providers develop and enhance their work with boys who are at risk of, and/or affected by sexual violence, abuse and exploitation, and their families and communities.
The focus on boys in this toolkit is not intended to overshadow the needs of girls. The objectives of the toolkit are to educate, raise awareness, increase knowledge and the development of skills, approaches, and confidence to work with boys affected by sexual exploitation. By promoting positive attitudinal and behavioural change with organisational strategies and responses, practitioners are equipped with specific tools and resources that can be used in contexts related to the sexual abuse and exploitation of boys.
The aim of this toolkit is to provide opportunities and choices for those using it, to make positive contributions to the lives of boys, and their families and communities. The toolkit is not a substitute for ‘in depth training’ but will provide a foundation of learning, build on your existing strengths and resources, and provide opportunities for you to be part of positive change. By presenting this toolkit, the Down to Zero Alliance hopes to contribute to the worldwide knowledge and practices of protecting boys for (the longterm effects of) sexual abuse and exploitation.
Toolkit Bridging the Gap, a toolkit for supporting boys affected by sexual exploitation and abuse. DtZ Alliance, September 2020