The story of one. Trafficked Boys: Vandalized innocence hidden in plain sight


WASHINGTON, September 20, 2014 — It was August of 1970 and the heat of a summer’s day in the Deep South refused to relinquish its grip as night descended like a dark curtain. The sweat had pooled in the middle of my back and my hair lay tangled and matted across my damp forehead as I lay face down on the small couch.

The hollow thud of the camper door being slammed shut pulled me temporarily back into realty. The couch I was laying on creaked and groaned as the bald and overweight man stood fastening his belt. The drug-induced haze of cocaine mixed with alcohol had a strong grip on me, but there were times I could almost taste the dust and grit of the world outside.

Since the age of five I had been trafficked sexually by a pedophile ring. It was now three years later and I was a well known and popular “date” for the sexual predators that my “owners” sold me to on a regular basis.

READ ALSO: Hollywood pedophile parties: Symptom of a rampant disease feeding on innocent children

Suddenly the loud roar of an engine boomed outside. It was a bookmark for my life because I knew exactly how the night would unfold.  That night I was being trafficked along the amateur stock car racing circuit and customers had traveled great distances to satisfy their twisted sexual appetites.

My life had fallen into a dark abyss early on as domestic violence; alcoholism, childhood sexual abuse and divorce dominated my world.

Following my mother’s divorce from my biological father, her life began a downward spiral that left me abandoned and alone, vulnerable to those who prey upon the innocent. My mother’s world existed at the bottom of a bottle and when she met a man named Neale who began to molest me, alcohol facilitated her complete escape from the reality of what was happening to me. Before long Neale shared me with the pedophile ring he belonged to. Soon I was being trafficked sexually, trapped by threats of violence against my mother and forced to take cocaine and alcohol.

For seven long years I was trapped in a hell no one deserves. I was nothing more than a shell of a human being enduring suffering and torture at the hands of psychopaths and sociopaths as the world looked on. I attended school, and from the outside appeared to be a “normal child” but I was being trafficked in plain sight. I was often pulled out of school to “service” clients and after school, holidays and weekends were all just a never-ending nightmare for me. All of the signs were there but no one cared enough to look or had the training or education to realize my bruises and lengthy illnesses were all red flags for a child suffering endless abuse.

The Department of Justice estimates that between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked in this country right now. Human trafficking is a $9.5 billion a year business in the U.S. according to the United Nations and within the first forty-eight hours of leaving home, a runaway child will be approached by a human trafficker. Human trafficking is second only to the drug trade as the largest criminal enterprise according to the Justice Department. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports that pimps can make from $150,000 to $200,000 per year for each child. The NCMEC also reports a pimp has an average of four children and the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking non profit, reports the average victim of sex trafficking is forced to have sex 20-48 times a day.

These numbers are shocking and part of a tragedy that is actively swallowing America’s children. The life of a child being trafficked is brutal. Drugs, alcohol, beatings and death threats are used as tools to keep innocent children as slaves to the depths of depravity. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports the average life span of a child being trafficked is seven years. The drugs, alcohol and abusive lifestyle wither the fragile spirit of a child leaving them to die in the shadow of hope.

Our children are being thrown into the darkest abyss of humanity and some have been lost in a broken system. In 2010, Los Angeles officials reported that 59 percent of juveniles arrested for prostitution were in the foster care system. In addition, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported that of the children who are reported missing, who are also likely sex trafficking victims, 60 percent were in foster care or group homes when they ran away.

In July of 2013, the FBI rescued 105 children who were forced into prostitution in the United States, and arrested 150 pimps in a series of raids in 76 American cities. The campaign, known as “Operation Cross Country,” was the largest of its type and conducted under the FBI’s “Innocence Lost” initiative.  It all took place in just 72 hours. The youngest victim recovered was just 9 years old. (Reuters).

Historically, women have been identified as the overwhelming majority of victims of human trafficking but recent studies have shown male victims of trafficking have been severely overlooked. In a 2008 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, of those who were sexually exploited in New York, fifty percent of victims were found to be boys from the United States, being trafficked domestically. Until now anti-trafficking organizations have been focused on female victims but that tide is now starting to turn. A 2013 study by the organization ECPAT discovered males are more likely to be arrested for shoplifting or other petty crimes even though they are being trafficked sexually.

READ ALSO: Dating violence, abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking: A critical connection

One of the great myths about male victims of sex trafficking is that they are predominantly homosexual. The truth is the majority of trafficked youths are not gay, according to Steven Pricopio from the organization Surviving Our Struggle, a center for young male trafficking victims. Most are trapped in a life of sexual servitude through threats of violence against their families or themselves. “They don’t see them as victims … It’s not an issue of sexual orientation, it’s an issue of right circumstances which bring you to exploitation or the vulnerability that brings you into being sexually exploited.” Pricopio says.

Also included in the John Jay study was the fact that forty percent of male victims were forced to service female clients. The lens through which we currently view human trafficking has to change and we need acknowledge that this scourge defies gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Instead of viewing victims of trafficking as either a male or female problem we have to now examine the expanse of its scope and treat it as a human problem.

The path to becoming a victim of sex trafficking is similar for both males and females. Income is not the sole determining factor in assessing the vulnerability of children. Traffickers have no limitations on the methods they will use to lure victims into an inescapable trap. Human trafficking has also infiltrated our schools.

Traffickers will hand pick a child to be a recruiter, typically one who has formed a trauma bond with their trafficker and place them in a school. The recruiter will wear nice clothes and jewelry and drive a nice car. When the other kids compliment the recruiter on their clothes or car the recruiter will say, “I can show you how to have all this and more.” It doesn’t take long before the trafficker has the new child trapped with threats of violence against their family and friends.

There are factors that do make a child more vulnerable, and one of the most common risk factors among victims is a dysfunctional family environment. Alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse all create a chasm in the self-esteem of a child. Traffickers actively target these children and soon they are lost to the darkness few survive.

My escape from the world of human trafficking came at a high cost. I had tried to tell at least ten people that I was being trafficked and my reward for this was among other things having three of my ribs broken. My life had become an abyss of worthlessness and pain and at the age of twelve, I stood in my mother’s rose garden, a bottle of sleeping pills in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other. As the agents of my demise tumbled down my throat chased by the warmth of the vodka, I felt a sense of peace wash over me. I felt a peace I had never felt before. I had finally escaped the nightmare and I was no longer afraid.

Suddenly, I awoke in the emergency room to a group of wide-eyed doctors who had witnessed me depart this world for a total of three minutes. God, it seems, had other plans for me and I was finally freed from my nightmare as the horrified doctors noticed the bruises that formed a tapestry across my body chronicling the abuse I suffered. I sincerely believe it is through God’s intervention that I am here today as a survivor of human trafficking and not a casualty. I stand here today not only as a survivor but as a living testament that there is always hope and a light inside all of us that no one can extinguish.

Please join me in the fight to end human trafficking and save the next child before they are sentenced to a vandalized childhood with a lifetime of broken hopes and dreams. Learn the signs of human trafficking and call the human trafficking hotline at 1-888-3737-888 if you suspect someone is being trafficked. To learn more about the signs of human trafficking visit the Polaris Project website: or the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign


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Jerome Elam
Jerome Elam is a survivor of child sex trafficking, child abuse, and child pornography. He is also the child of an alcoholic and a child survivor of domestic violence as well as a child of divorce. Raised in the south, Jerome enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the age of seventeen to escape the nightmare he had become trapped in. That day, Jerome’s life found a new beginning as he embarked upon a journey that would show him the world and open his eyes to the strength of the human spirit. After his enlistment was finished, Jerome attended college and graduated to work in the Biotechnology sector. Motivated by the painful memory of his past, Jerome began to speak out about his abuse and found the healing force of God’s unconditional love and the joy of starting his own family. He is a fierce advocate for all children deprived of their voices, a speaker, a Staff Writer and Columnist for Communities Digital News and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. When asked to describe his life Jerome says,” I have struggled against many things in my life and somehow I found a way to survive. Writing is my passion and it keeps me in touch with the wealth everyone holds deep inside their hearts and minds. I share my experiences in the hope that those suffering in silence will find the courage to speak out and share their voices. I have been blessed to have God reveal his purpose for me in saving innocent children from predators.”
  • jen g

    Wow. God bless you Jerome. I’m so sorry that the world betrayed you.

    I’m going to change the world.

    For you, for my son, and every child who has been forsaken.

    This is the most important conversation of the millennium.

    What is one thing people can do to rescue children?

  • Guest

    Do you know of any videos on the internet about this topic?

  • Redeem & Restore Ctr

    Thank you for your honesty and humility to share the ugly truth that HAS BEEN happening all around us. May others begin taking steps to do what they are able to prevent, intervene or more for survivors

  • Pam H

    Powerful article and thank you. As a huge support of ant-human trafficking efforts I am appalled by the trafficking statistics. However, I did want to point out an error in your story where you said “Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking non profit, reports the average victim of sex trafficking is forced to have sex 20-48 times a day.” I think the statistic as you can quote below is 24-48 hours a day until $$$ quota not 20-48 times a day. As David Batstone of Not for Sale once said, “The numbers are horrific enough. . . we need to make sure our stats are accurate. Again, thanks for your excellent article . . . I am sorry for what you had to endure, but you are making a difference by coming forward with your story.

    In Washington, DC, for example, the domestic sex trafficking victims whom we serve are forced to meet nightly quotas that average around $500 dollars. There are women and girls right now as I speak who have these quotas held over their heads and will have to meet them tonight in our Capitol city. To meet the quota, women and children as young as 12 years old must engage in numerous commercial sex acts with customers each night, in locations such as hourly hotel rooms, apartments, alleyways, and parked cars. The punishment for not meeting a quota on a given night is a severe beating, starvation, rape, or torture by a pimp, or being forced to continue to provide commercial sex for upwards of 24-48 hours until the quota is met.

    • Jerome Elam Author

      From the Polaris Project website:

      Human trafficking victims in residential brothels are often forced to provide commercial sex to high volumes of men daily. In certain sex trafficking networks, women and girls commonly “serve” as many as four men per hour (every 15 minutes), totaling 48 men in a given 12 hour day.

      From the Sevenly website in an article on the Polaris Project:

      The Polaris Project states:The average victim may be forced to have sex up to 20-48 times a day

      Also from the Polaris Project:

      Meet Emma, she is a victim of sex trafficking and this is her story. Emma was raised in an abusive home, where she and her mother were beaten regularly by her father. Distraught by the vicious acts of violence, one night, at the age of 14, Emma decided to run away. As she walked nervously down the street, she was approached by a man who asked if she needed help. Having nowhere to turn, she accepted the offer. 24 hours later Emma was raped by 5 men, held captive, attacked and beaten to the point she couldn’t stand. Within a week the man began selling her body for a profit ten to fifteen times a night to strangers who found her on the internet.

    • jen g

      @Pam H – As a huge support of ant-human trafficking efforts

      care to collaborate?

      w.a.t.c.h. #lovewins

  • AgainstChildAbuse

    So devastated to read this, my thoughts and prayers for you though we are of different religions. You endured such a terrible childhood at such a young age that no child should ever have to go through.
    I hope your life will be blessed after enduring such a horrifying experience and I truly hope you will succeed in your battle against human trafficking for the sake of all the children out there.

  • Jerome Elam Author

    How To Identify A Human Trafficking Victim

    • Seems anxious, fearful or paranoid. Avoids eye contact.

    • Tearfulness or signs of depression.

    • Unexplained bruises or cuts or other signs of physical abuse.

    • Appears to be in a relationship with someone who is dominating.

    • Never is alone and/or always has someone translating or answering questions on their behalf.

    • Not in control of their own finances.

    • Presents with secrecy or unable to answer questions about where they live.

    • Inconsistent details when telling their story.

    • Has no identification such as a license, passport or other ID documents.

    Inability to leave their job or residence. Says they cannot schedule appointments.

    Being a recent arrival to the United States and does not speak English.

    Is under 18 and providing commercial sex acts. Or at any age unwillingly providing commercial sex acts.

    Is afraid of law enforcement or receiving help from an outside entity.

    If you can find an opportunity to get he/she alone, ask him/her the following screening questions:

    Can you leave your job or house when you want?

    Where did you get those bruises or is anyone hurting you?

    Do you get paid for your employment? Is it fair? How many hours do you work?

    (If foreign national) How did you get to the U.S. and is it what you expected? Are you being forced to do anything you don’t want to do?

    Are you or your family being threatened?

    Do you live with or near your employer? Does your employer provide you housing? Are there locks on doors or windows from outside?

    Do you owe debt to anyone?

    If you suspect they are a victim of human trafficking,take the following actions:

    Ask the person if you can help them find a safe place to go immediately.

    If they need time, create an action plan with them to get to a safe place when they are ready.

    Call and make a report to the human trafficking hotline at 1.888.3737.888. The hotline has language capabilities, so any individual can call directly if they choose.

    • jen g

      what steps are taken by the agency? Is there verifiable statistical data that these victims are getting out?

      Im curious, because my little boy at 5 y.o. disclosed multi-victimization and inter-familial sexual abuse, and I did everything in my power to help him…..

      and the opposition I faced, almost cost me my life. Truly.

      my son was expeditiously forced back to his abuser despite repeated er visits for injury from S.A.

      and taken from me. and his brother. by the very system in place to protect children.

      So…while i identify with and applaud your effort…I can tell you with irrefutable evidence to back it up….

      It is nearly impossible to rescue/protect children from sexual exploitation.

      The people in place to protect kids…are doing just the opposite – and the general public needs to know.


  • DougDante

    You wrote: “I had tried to tell at least ten people that I was being trafficked and my reward for this was among other things having three of my ribs broken.”

    Thank you for sharing your story, which is gut wrenching, so that people may learn the truth.

    The failure of these 10 regular decent people to stop the trafficking, probably including teachers and councilors with a duty to report, is particularly disturbing to me, and I believe that it represents a systematic and illegal discrimination against boy and man victims. I urge you to consult with a federal civil rights attorney.

    Boys and men who are victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual abuse should be aware that they have a fourteenth amendment civil right to equal access to services for victims, and their civil rights are protected under the nondiscrimination clause of the 2013 VAWA reauthorization. They should read the USDOJ VAWA Civil Rights FAQ and the reddit Men’s Rights FAQ. They can also join us in fighting for equal access to the justice system for all victims by visiting our mractivism forum and responding to action opportunities.

    I don’t know what type of biological father you have, because it’s not clear, but this is also an example of an abusive mom and step father, where the child’s father appears to have zero access to protect the child. If they controlled dad’s relationship with his child, it was also a form of domestic violence, again often ignored.

    I urge teachers, councilors, and law enforcement professionals to ensure that they are honoring their duties to uphold the law and protect all survivors and their families. Until they act to protect boy and man victims and their children, and to respect their rights to equality before the law, victims must hope for justice and persevere.

    • be kind

      If you read the timeline here, you will see that this happened nearly 50 years ago. Sadly, teachers and counselors didn’t have a duty to report. It’s due to brave people like the author and good legislators that we now have better laws to work with. As the author says, it’s not a male or female issue – it’s a human issue.

      • jen g

        just curious – does the system work where you live?

        What I see, is the opposite. Now that the DOE has taken over the US education,

        reporting child abuse is discouraged/prevented.

        also….good legislation? like erins law?

        I doesn’t matter. None of it does because USDOJ and Center for State courts refuses to allow prosecution.

      • jen g

        i do notice anti-establishment comments disappear on this thread.

        I want you to look up these key words –

        cognitive dissonance
        government funded/supported pedophile rings
        DOE/DOJ response to the epidemic of child pedophelia
        group homes-adoption-foster care
        non-profit companies connection to pedophelia
        if you look at a demographic – children – you find a govt agency – follow the money…you will find the people who are selling our children-with no consideration of the costs.
        support for pedophiles- (we MUST address this issue-a tough one…yet worthwhile)
        convictions for intra-familial child sexual abuse
        protective parents of sexually abused children – how does the system respond?

        what we know- 1 in 4 girls/ 1 in 6 boys are sexually assaulted in the US.

        why do the #’s from Child Protective Services tell a much different story.

        I am horrified that in 2014 it is nearly impossible to protect children.
        It is discouraged/prevented by government/municipalities.

        I am scared. we must UNITE. w.a.t.c.h. – we are the children’s heroes.

        I have solutions. it is all of our responsibility to solve this problem.

        first- we must have the eyes to see……

        Thank you @be kind…….I appreciate any ideas you may have.

        • jen g

          sadly, what you will find, will disturb you so deeply, the normalcy bias may eliminate your ability to even contemplate what you find.

          “they” depend on it.

          • gush

            I’m sorry for your son.
            ok, my advice. If you actually have evidence of it and it’s being ignored I suggest you follow the money, the father wouldn’t be able to trespass the law like this without paying someone for it.
            if you can show to the NRS that some illegal financial transaction is taking place they will do the rest.

  • Sushana

    Thank you for sharing. The world cannot protect us and it is very sad that our homes lack the protection we need as well. I cannot agree with you more when you said that “no one cared enough to look or had the training or education to realize my bruises and lengthy illnesses were all red flags for a child suffering endless abuse.” I only learned about human trafficking 3 yrs ago. Since then I have been volunteering in any way that I can. Now I would like to open a Home for these victims. But without a business education, I am moving at snails pace. It will happen. By God’s grace, it will.

  • So glad you survived and making this hidden topic more open but why isn’t God protecting all the other thousands of kids?

    • jen g

      @william – why aren’t we?

      I know the answer. Because we lack the strength/vision for the scope/depth of this epidemic.

      With all due respect…lets not defer blame…unless we are taking personal responsibility.

      plus, with modern society…everyone is so busy denying/debating “god”

      if he did openly do anything…everyone would deny it. lol

      Thanks for your important comment.

  • Madeleine Loudbear

    I was so sorry to hear your story. I hope you found/finding the ‘stuff’ to heal, forgive and move Forward. I just get so angry that this is going on, but this is the type of stuff you see in societies that have no balance. I would like to see a shift to a more matriarchal society, with a healthy balance of both female and male energies. You were just a little boy, and my heart breaks for you. It baffles and confuses me why this is so prevalent. We may go down in history at this time as barbaric technologists. I don’t see our civilization evolving much, when the young and innocent are preyed upon in such a technological age, where the technology actually perpetrates and aids in acts of sheer debasement and torture. For as advanced as we think we are, in fact we are not! I hope you find your blessings and know that you are loved and thanks for having the guts to bring this forward. In spirit, agape

  • NewMHRA


    All this time spent messing with countries overseas and drumming up wars when we could be protecting our youth and fostering their growth into healthy, capable, and productive adults.

    I’d much prefer the latter to spend my tax dollars on.

    This article reminded me of a movie called Lilya 4-Ever in which a girl was taken away and used for sex. There’s one scene where you see man after man having sex with her from her point of view and it really brings home how sick (and primitively base) this type of thing is. Just using kids as masturbation to be discarded immediately afterwards.

    I really don’t know how some people can live with themselves.

  • Andy C

    Easiest way to tell if your looking at a victim is to check their genitals. If they stick out, not a victim.
    Humans come in to main sexes, male and victim.

    If that weren’t true, then I guess there are plenty of male only spaces and there near no campaigns that don’t feature males as victims.

  • Mr. X

    You survived, and made it out alive. A lot sadly do not.