County officials announced an outreach campaign Wednesday 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.

“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. The monthlong campaign is being held throughout January, which is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

“Tragically, as many as 50% of sexually trafficked children are boys and LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to experience sexual violence,” said Nick Macchione, director of the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. “It’s extremely important that we understand the gravity of the issue and take immediate action by raising awareness through this campaign with the support of our district attorney. At the Health and Human Services Agency, we will promote these valuable and lifesaving resources countywide with all of our community partners. Together, we will help protect our vulnerable children and youth from sexual exploitation.”

Anyone seeking help for themselves or someone they know was encouraged to call 800-344-6000 or visit www.ProtectSanDiegoKids.org.

–City News Service



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Ellen Bullock