A report on attitudes to sexual abuse of children in Cambodia, and face-to-face interviews with more than 400 children and young people around the world has revealed that while abuse of boys is widespread, it is just not taken as seriously as abuse of girls.
“The attention to the needs of girls is well deserved,” said Laurence Gray, World Vision’s Director of Advocacy in Asia, which runs child sponsorship programmes around the world. “But the world has been largely silent and unresponsive to the needs of boys both as victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
“The evidence has often been there if only we had chosen to pay attention to it. In Asia, the region where I live and work, people are more culturally inclined to see girls as victims. Shame and ignorance have hidden the extent of the problem of sexual abuse of boys and many governments and civil society organisations lack the skills and resources to respond.
Comments from children who took part in focus groups on the issue of trafficking and sexual exploitation showed that boys worldwide were also at significant risk of sexual abuse.
“Both Thai people and foreigners buy sex,” said one focus group member. “In some cases, a 60-year-old man pays for sex with boys as young as five years old.”
Ruthi Hoffman Hanchett, Policy Officer for World Vision said, “The world has only really given its attention to the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the last 10 years and it has been primarily focused on girls. Boys suffering at the hands of molesters now cannot afford to wait another 10 years before they get the same consideration as girls. This conference in Brazil needs to be talking about how we can ensure all children get equal and appropriate help.”