“She was willing to send me there”: Intrafamilial child sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking of boys

“She was willing to send me there”: Intrafamilial child sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking of boys

“She was willing to send me there”: Intrafamilial child sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking of boys


Boys subject to intrafamilial child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) – in particular, cases which begin as incest and later evolve into child trafficking for sexual exploitation – face many barriers in disclosing their exploitation, often leaving victims and survivors feeling isolated from society and dismissed or mishandled by service providers such as law enforcement officers, child protection specialists, medical staff and mental health professionals.


This study explores the unique characteristics of intrafamilial CSEA through the sex trafficking of boys, and the barriers to disclosure and recovery experienced by male victims and survivors.

Participants and setting

Ten adult male survivors of intrafamilial child trafficking for sexual exploitation were interviewed multiple times to gain a deeper understanding of intrafamilial CSEA and how it compares and contrasts with non-familial CSEA. Participants in this study primarily came from North America.


Multiple semi-structured online interviews were conducted with these 10 adult male survivors because they experienced 1) intrafamilial CSEA and 2) being trafficked by their families to be sexually exploited by non-familial perpetrators. The participants were then asked to compare and contrast intrafamilial and non-familial CSEA. The research team employed a descriptive phenomenological approach and interview transcripts were coded, analyzed, and compared to identify patterns of non-verbal CSEA indicators and thematic narratives. The study also explored the internal and external barriers to disclosure reported by participants. Trauma-informed, person-centered practices were used throughout the entirety of the study to minimize harm to participants. The research team employed a co-productive approach using participants’ initial interviews and feedback to formulate new questions for later rounds of interviews and by having the participants confirm the accuracy of their respective quotes and case summaries.

Results and discussion

This study highlights several CSEA modalities, such as “boy-swap” events and local/national/transnational trafficking rings engaged in CSEA of boys. It also discusses how survivors’ experiences differed between intrafamilial and non-familial CSEA and trafficking, and how familial settings may facilitate concealment of CSEA. Participants described various modus operandi used by abusers, traffickers, and buyers of all genders. While all 10 intrafamilial CSEA cases included male perpetrators, female perpetrators were also present in nine of them. In addition, participants identified various psychological and physiological CSEA and trafficking indicators that evidenced their victimization during their childhood years. All 10 survivors reported long-term health consequences into adulthood and scored highly on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) questionnaires.

Recommendations and conclusion

Findings underscore the importance of trauma-informed practices for identifying, liberating, and rehabilitating victims and survivors. Participants reported receiving more effective assistance from service providers that exhibited trauma-informed practices. Traditional gender stereotypes may hinder the ability of service providers to recognize and provide support to boys victimized and trafficked by their families for CSEA. Consequently, service providers may stand to benefit from training on 1) trauma-informed, person-centered practices and 2) conscious and unconscious biases, particularly those related to gender. Survivors in recovery require expanded support services, such as the provision of safe housing, online/in-person support communities, and professional/life skill training. Co-productive research methods that integrate the views and experiences of CSEA and trafficking survivors are also recommended.


  • Intrafamilial child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA)
  • Familial trafficking
  • Female perpetrators
  • Trauma-informed practices
  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Barriers to disclosure

Read or download full research paper here.