County launches awareness campaign of boys' exploitation by sex traffickers
County officials announced an outreach campaign Thursday aimed at raising awareness about the exploitation of boys by sex traffickers, with hopes of improving support services for male victims.
The campaign organized by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, Health and Human Services Agency and Child Welfare Services will include messaging on social media, radio, billboards and bus transit posters.
County officials cited national studies finding that as many as half of commercially sexually exploited children in the United States are boys and that the sexual exploitation of boys is underreported.
"To truly address the needs of all sex trafficking survivors, we must recognize the reality that the trafficking of boys is more common than the public may realize," San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said. "We have a responsibility to protect all children who are being trafficked. This latest outreach is an extension of our work to increase awareness, improve identification and reporting, and develop specialty services for survivors who are boys."
According to the D.A.'s Office, the campaign is aimed at improving screening, identification and services for boys who are sex trafficking victims. Outreach efforts will also include a free human trafficking summit to be held in Liberty Station on Friday regarding anti-trafficking efforts in the San Diego region.
"The commercial sexual exploitation of children in our region is a hidden crisis and one we are proud to raise up and combat in partnership with the District Attorney's office," said Nick Macchione, director of the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. "Girls are well-known targets, but so are an astonishing number of boys and LGBTQ+ youth. All human trafficking is despicable, and we look forward to this creative campaign saving young boys from tragedy."
Anyone who is seeking help from themselves or someone they know was encouraged to call 800-344-6000 or visit ProtectSanDiegoKids.org.