3 in 4 B.C. boys on street sexually exploited by women
The Vancouver Sun, Gerry Bellett, Canwest News Service, Tuesday, May 27, 2008
VANCOUVER - Canada's largest study into the sexual exploitation of street kids and runaways has shattered some myths about who the abusers might be - with the most surprising finding being that many are women seeking sex with young males.
"Some youth in each gender were exploited by women with more than three out of four (79 per cent) sexually exploited males reporting exchanging sex for money or goods with a female," said Elizabeth Saewyc, associate professor of nursing at the University of British Columbia and principal investigator for the study conducted by Vancouver's McCreary Centre Society.
"I must admit it wasn't something we were expecting."
The results were drawn from interviews with 1,845 youth - some as young as 12 - in surveys taken across the province between 2000 and 2006.
The stereotypical model of the child being abused - a teenage female being sexually abused by a male - was wrong, said Saewyc.
Sexual exploitation is defined as youth under 19 trading sexual activities for money, drugs, gifts, food, services, shelter, transportation or anything similar.
This can include work in brothels, escort services, pornography and Internet sex but it also includes what's described as "survival sex," where a child provides sex in exchange for a place to sleep, a meal or a ride.
It found one in every three of children living on the street have been sexually abused although many didn't seem aware that they had been exploited, said Saewyc.
"It's a shocking number. The law is clear: any adult who has sex with children for any form of consideration is exploiting them and it's illegal," she said.
The study found 94 per cent of females reported they had been sexually exploited by men.
But the study found that young males were being preyed upon by sexual predators of both sexes, yet the social systems in place to deter and prevent sexual predation were only designed to help females and the criminal justice system wasn't concerned with what was happening to young males.
"Women seeking young men and boys offer transportation or other things and some go to nightclubs and bars where they can pick up under-age youth. And a certain percentage have been picked up by couples," she said.
Saewyc said it was indicative of the prevailing myths about sexual abuse that the rehabilitation program for persons arrested by police for attempting to buy sexual favours on the street was called "John School".
"I think it's time we had a Jane School. There should be an equal opportunity school for women predators," she said.
"Part of the challenge is that young males are not seen as being exploited because they are not coming to the attention of the police and the police aren't out there picking up the perpetrators. The system is set up to handle the sexual exploitation of young women, not young men," she said.
Community research associate Jayson Anderson said most of the programs to deal with sexual exploitation were designed by women for women. "There's really nothing out there for males. So we need programs for young boys," he said.
The study showed that the following youth were most likely to suffer from sexual predation:
- those who were lesbian, gay or bisexual
- those with physical or mental health issues
- those who had been abused by family members
- youth that had been in government care.
© Vancouver Sun 2008