237 – Research and Advocacy: What About Boys?

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Dr. Sandie Morgan and Dr. Glenn Miles discuss Dr. Miles’ experience with human trafficking and the research he has completed on the topic. With a focus on how males are sexually exploited, Dr. Miles has a unique perspective on the issue of human trafficking. They discuss the cultural views on male sexual exploitation and the dangers children face when they have access to pornography.

Glenn Miles

Glenn Miles is an independent researcher, evaluator, trainer. He has pioneered 3 NGOs in Cambodia. His research mostly focuses on listening to the voices of survivors of sex trafficking with a special concern for men and boys. This year he has helped complete an evaluation of the Chab Dai Longitudinal Butterfly Project.

Key Points

  • Glenn Miles discovered that boys were being sexually abused much more than had been originally thought.
  • Porn is often seen as a male issue; however, anyone can be affected by it and become addicted to it.
  • When a boy is sexually abused by an adult female, society often reacts with congratulations for the boy. In contrast, if a girl were sexually abused by an adult male, society would react very differently. Both situations are the same and must be responded to in the same way.
  • When children watch pornography, a distorted mindset can be created. Their body image can be very detrimentally affected, and the way they create relationships will be harmed.


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Dave [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast, this is episode number 237, Research and Advocacy: What about Boys?


Production Credits [00:00:09] Produced by Innovate Learning, Maximizing Human Potential.


Dave [00:00:30] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast, my name is Dave Stachowiak.


Sandie [00:00:36] And my name is Sandie Morgan.


Dave [00:00:38] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. This is going to be a wonderful follow up to our last conversation with Christa. I’m so glad today to welcome Glenn Miles to our show. Glenn is an independent researcher, evaluator, and trainer. He has pioneered three NGOs in Cambodia. His research mostly focuses on listening to the voices of survivors of sex trafficking with a special concern for men and boys. This year, he has helped complete an evaluation of the Chab Di Longitudinal Butterfly project. Glenn, we’re so glad to welcome you to the show.


Glenn [00:01:18] Thank you. I’m very glad to be here.


Sandie [00:01:20] Well, Glenn and I have known each other for a long time, and during covid, we had a chance to connect more often. He lives in Wales. I live in California. But our virtual space has been an opportunity to build our anti-trafficking community, and he’s been really instrumental in that. So, thank you so much, Glen. I want to dive right into your special concern for men and boys. My very first encounter with a commercially sexually exploited child was as a night nurse in central California, and the little boy was only 14 years old. And so, I followed your work especially closely. Why, boys?


Glenn [00:02:06] Yeah, that’s a really good question. When I did my Ph.D. research, we found that boys were sexually abused much more than we had expected. And so, I was interested to follow that through. And so, as things emerged and developed with looking at sexual exploitation, I wanted also to look at how much boys and men were being sexually exploited as well. And in Cambodia, there was at the time, everyone was saying, oh, it’s not really a problem with boys and men. It’s just not really happening here. So, I was well, not really convinced. I need to know for sure myself. So, I had been to India and in India, there was a guy they called Jasmir Thakur, and he was a guy who was working with boys in the slum areas. And when he was doing HIV education with them, he realized just how much these boys were exposed to being sexually exploited. And I think it really came home to him when one of the boys called him in the night and said that he’d been brutally raped. So, then he followed that up and ended up getting himself really quite involved in what was going on there. So, I had kind of helped him to explore doing some research there in Mumbai, in India. And so, I invited him to come to Cambodia. I said, could you come and just have a look and see what’s happening? And I’d really appreciate it if you could help us to identify areas where boys might be being exploited and then we can do some research here. So, he then did come to Cambodia and within a week he’d expose a number of different places where there were things going on. So, I was shocked, to be honest. You know, I’ve been working in this space in children at risk and looking at issues around trafficking. And yet, you know, in the city I’ve been working, I really had no idea about what was going on. So, we were very grateful for this man’s input and support. And then we ended up starting to do a series of research projects, not only in Cambodia but also in Thailand, in the Philippines, working with my colleague Jarrett Davis. So since then, we’ve got a number of these studies published. And really what we’re trying to do is to demonstrate that boys are vulnerable. And, you know, frankly, what’s happened is that we’ve got a situation even within the trafficking community where girls are seen as vulnerable and boys are seen as stronger and they can handle it. But it’s just not true. Boys are very vulnerable too. That’s not to say that we don’t provide them with a voice, but we do need to think about how we can support them and how we can really provide them with the care that they need.


Sandie [00:05:01] Wow. So, Glen, one of the things I love about you and I really should have started a little notepad, is how many times you say the word research. And I especially want my students that are listening to this to understand the role of research in advocacy, because often we try to look for the most salacious story and anecdotal story that doesn’t look like what most stories look like to get people’s attention, and it may actually inadvertently reduce people’s awareness of what’s happening right in front of them. Can you link research to strong advocacy for us?


Glenn [00:05:51] Absolutely. I mean, honestly, just think about it. When you’re dealing with governments, when you’re dealing with the UN, when you’re dealing with international NGOs, you need to have evidence to prove that what you’re saying has got a back to it. So, for example, in Chiang Mai in Thailand, I worked with an organization that called Up International and doing research with Urban Lights. Now, Urban Light specifically is working with boys. And when we first started working with them, I contacted them and told them my particular concern for boys. And they were so thrilled that somebody was interested, frankly. And I said, OK, let’s really look at what the problem is. So, we basically did some mapping and then we looked at where there were boys in that city being exploited. And then we did research in those areas. So, they had noticed that they were boys in the bars who were selling themselves to tourists. But there was a lot more going on. So, we identified that. We then presented the research to the wider community. We presented the research with the support of the local university. We invited the press to come along to hear the presentation. And there was a lot of energy and excitement because this was the first time that this really had been exposed. And the way that we did it was that we were on the platform alongside practitioners who have been working with the boys. And so, when it came to the questions to both the practitioners who had been working with the boys and us as researchers. So, of course, working with people is a valid type of research in itself that, you know, having both together really gave it strength and so that we were very positive about the results of that. And we felt like we’ve been strong advocates for boys in that context.


Sandie [00:07:50] That is so powerful, and it really amplifies the reach in that context. So, in our last episode with Christa, we talked about writing and you are also a prolific writer. We looked at a couple of the books that you coauthored and edited, in a recent chapter in a new book that was really taken from your Stopping the Traffick and in that you address access of youth to pornography in tackling demand. So, tell me what you think the most important takeaways are from that article, especially in regard to young people?


Glenn [00:08:35] Yeah, I mean, I think it’s another one of these areas that’s kind of got a little bit neglected. I think that people often think, well, you know, what can we do? The kids have got their phones, they’ve got access to porn. So, but I think that’s really unhelpful way of looking at it. I think, you know, we believe that children can be responsible and that we need to inform them about some of the dangers and the challenges of porn. I’ve actually been involved in developing a tool kit called www.AsianYouthAgainstPorn.org. And what it does is it educates youth and young people about the dangers of porn and just it’s not a moral you know, you don’t do that naughty boy or girl, but it’s saying, you know, this is going to be challenging. And if it has become a problem, where it’s where you feel like you’re really pulled into it and it’s become a bit addictive, there are ways that you can get out of it. So, with support, I think so.


Sandie [00:09:35] Let me stop you for a second because you just made me think of one of the illustrations in the article that made me sit up. You used an illustration that we’ve heard a million times. Dad walks into the room, sees his son is watching pornography. Now you flip it and dad walks into his daughter’s room. Oh, my gosh. Tell me how that ended up in that article.


Glenn [00:10:01] Yeah, well, I think when it comes to girls, we always think, oh, you know, it’s not really going to be a problem with girls. And so, I think when men see their daughters involved in that, they can’t quite believe that it’s going to happen. You know, they can’t believe that they can possibly be attracted to pull in the same way that the boys can. You know, I think also we still haven’t got a head around the idea that women can be abusers, too, and, you know, sometimes people say to me, well, yeah, but boys, it’s not as common as girls, is it? Well, yeah, OK. We know it’s probably not as common, although we think we know, but that doesn’t mean that you just ignore it. And it’s the same with pornography, just because it’s not such a big problem with girls, it doesn’t mean that you ignore it. And I think the challenges that with all of these things is that we’ve kind of got stuck on these stereotypes of what a boy should be like and what a girl should be like. And it’s not helpful. And I think that there are there’s increasing evidence now in research that women teachers, in particular, are abusing boys in their care. And we need it rather than saying, oh, I like that phrase that you used before, boys will be boys. And, you know, it’s good for him if he’s managed to screw his teacher. But honestly, it’s not like that. You’ve got a power differential there between a woman, an adult teacher, and a boy. And, you know, he may be very confused about what’s going on. And he although he may say that he’s consented, then he may not have done. And even if he did, as we know anybody under the age of 18, it’s still considered to be abuse. So, we need to take these things seriously and think if I think one thing that’s helpful is to think now if this was a man teacher, then what would our attitude? Would it be any different? And of course, often it is very different. So, I think we need to confront those wrong situations.


Sandie [00:12:08] And what I’m understanding now that we’ve been in this covid semi lockdown, spending so much time online and I get calls this week, I got a call and it was a 12-year-old. And what do we do? So, I think this chapter about the access of youth to pornography is really important. In the chapter, you have some discussion questions. And the first one I would love to hear from you about is what are the particular harms that can happen to children who watch porn? And how are these compounded by age?


Glenn [00:12:47] Yeah, well, we know that the evidence of neurobiology, the way that porn works it’s like a drug. And so, the more that you look at it, then the more that you want to look at it. And also, there’s a phenomenon where if you’re looking at something today, then tomorrow you want to look at something that’s more salacious and more titillating and more interesting. So, then you quickly find yourself getting into more and more bizarre and violent types of pornography. So, you know, there are many challenges, of course, because children’s brains are more malleable. Yeah, I think that the brain of children is just absorbing information. And I think that they’re not really able to process it in the same way as adults. So, for adults, I think children are often thinking, oh, this is a way that I can learn about how to do sex. Well, pornography is not about sex. Pornography is about self-gratification. And so, they’re already learning the wrong way. And, you know, I’m starting to talk to more and more adults who have looked at pornography from when they were children. And by the time they’re adults, it’s become a very serious problem. And they’re desperate to get rid of it in their lives because it’s just ruining the way that they have any kind of relationship. And I think, you know, there are things like, for example, the way that boys, you know, they’re now looking at themselves in the mirror and thinking, well, I’m not muscular enough for them. I haven’t got a big enough dick, or I mean, the girls, you know, they’re wanting to have bigger breasts and then they start to think, well, maybe I need cosmetic surgery when they’re not even 18. This is this is ridiculous.


Sandie [00:14:35] So how do we counter that? How do we make sure our kids are protected?


Glenn [00:14:40] Well, you know, I think that pornography needs to be a topic that’s talked about in schools and in churches and at home. We can’t always guarantee that things are going to be talked about at home. We might think, oh, I know sometimes as Christians we feel like, well, it’s got to be in the home because that’s where but, you know, some kids don’t have that kind of home supportive environment. So, I think that we need to be looking at children need to be looking at advertising critically with their teachers and saying, you know, this isn’t real life. This is just somebody trying to get you to spend more money. And, you know, pornography is another form of that. So, I do think that sometimes we underestimate how children can analyze and they can be challenged, you know, they’re not stupid, basically.


Sandie [00:15:33] Exactly, exactly. And giving them opportunities to exercise their critical thinking will help them discriminate between things that are harmful and things that are not true. Not true. Oh, my goodness. I know that you and I could talk for two hours because we’ve actually done that. But I don’t want to finish this podcast without talking about the butterfly project. Alex Warren has been on the podcast and mentioned it, and she mentioned you several months ago. So, tell us the significance of the butterfly project.


Glenn [00:16:11] OK, so the Butterfly Longitudinal Research Project is a project of 128 survivors of sex trafficking in Cambodia that were in 14 different aftercare programs, including shelters and community programs. And so, it’s been following their stories and listening to their voices for the last 10 years, which is an extraordinary achievement, actually, when you think about it, these are some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. And yet, you know, somehow, we’ve been able to maintain contact with them as they’ve gone through the programs and as they’ve gone out into the community. It’s included, girls and boys. It’s included Cambodian and ethnic Vietnamese and most of the programs with Christian faith-based organizations. So that also has implications as well. But as far as we know, I think there is another longitudinal project that’s currently going, but this is the only one of its kind. So, it’s been 10 years and it’s the only one of its kind in existence. So, we’re currently in the process of processing a lot of the data. As you can imagine, we’ve been doing it as we’ve been going along, and now we’re actually hoping to get eight articles in the journal Dignity, which comes out of the University of Rhode Island. And all those would be in a special edition, which is really exciting. So, they look out in dignity for a special edition on the Butterfly project.


Sandie [00:17:44] Oh, that’s very cool. And why is a longitudinal study so much more superior?


Glenn [00:17:52] Yes, well, if you think of the normal cross-sectional study, is a study that’s taken, it just gives a snapshot of time. So, most of the research that we do, we only have time to just look at one particular time and one particular place. And so, we’re kind of making a lot of assumptions just based on that kind of quick snapshot. But with a longitudinal research project, you’re developing a relationship with people in a whole different way. Of course, the relationship itself, you could say it’s impacting the results. But what we found in this study is that the relationship actually enhanced the results because people felt they could trust the researchers and because it’s being done over a period of time, then you have different ways of looking at things so you can ask them, what do you think will happen? And then you can ask them, explain what happened when you look back on. So, for example, one of the questions, one of the things that we asked them was, when they look back on that time in the shelter, did they feel they were being coerced into attending Christian events? And, you know, honestly, when we asked that question, we really weren’t sure what the answer was going to be. But mostly it was very positive. They said, no, no, that that didn’t happen. We’ve never felt that we were being pushed into it. We had a choice as whether we could do it or not, which actually is really reassuring. So, you know, when you’re doing an evaluation of a program, for example, if you at the end of the program, if you say to people, how was that generally at the end of the program, people are going to say, oh, yeah, that was that was fine just because they kind of feel like they ought to or whatever. But if you if you’re doing it several years after something’s happened, then you’re going to get a much more robust response on this. So, I think, you know, all around, it’s a very I think the information we’ve got, you know, I think we’re going to be looking at it for many years, really, and saying that some really good stuff there.


Sandie [00:19:55] Glenn, you have influenced me a great deal over the years with your research on boys, but also with your approach to research as a primary tool in addressing human trafficking. I’m not sure you’re aware, but our State Department office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking launched a huge study on prevalence that is global and a great, very highly developed, research team was recruited and I’m excited about that, because research really aligns with my goals, the mantra on this podcast is study the issues, be a voice, make a difference. And we extend that to explain that if you don’t study, you may likely say the wrong thing and possibly even do harm. So, if you’re speaking to my first-year research class, how can you advise them on how to identify an article as research-based or just a great story?


Glenn [00:21:09] Yes, good question. Yeah, well, research really needs to be done carefully where you’re systematically looking at the issue and looking at it from different perspectives. So different people. I think one of the challenges in the movement, the abolition movement, is that we were terrible with these stories. You know, sometimes stories, they really don’t represent trafficking at all. And it’s much better for us to have good, solid information where we’ve asked key people, we’ve asked the survivors themselves what they think. And I’m very keen on listening to the survivors’ voices because I believe that they’re experts of their own experience. So, if you can possibly get that, whether they’re survivors now or whether they can look back on their experiences as survivors, then I think that that’s a really strong way of understanding the context for them.


Sandie [00:22:06] So, Glenn, there’s just so many things your bio goes on for pages and pages, your CV, what would be the best resources for our listeners to interact with to learn more about the years of research that you’ve done?


Glenn [00:22:25] OK, well, I’m really happy to share. That’s something I’ve never been someone who’s hiding. I think one of the things I don’t like about some research is that they’re very protective over their material because they feel, you know, they could influence if somebody steals it, then that could influence their careers. I just want to get the information out there and for people to use it. So, all my research is available on my website. www.gmmiles.code.uk and then. Yeah, I mean, that would be the key place to look for it. And that’s got information about other both training and research materials. Yeah.


Sandie [00:23:06] So last question. What would you do differently in 2020 that you know now that you would have done when you first started? Is that a convoluted question?


Glenn [00:23:19] Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think I would value the voices of survivors more than I did when I first started, you know, I think when you when you’re starting, you feel like you understand it. You feel like it’s the people who are the carers or the advocates who have got to really know things when actually honestly, I do think that the voices of survivors really need to be heard.


Sandie [00:23:45] That’s really outstanding. And we are being very intentional about bringing more survivor voices to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. And Glenn, I feel kind of like, oh, I invited my teacher to do an interview. And so, I was a little bit starstruck today. But I really value your input into the community at large, but also in mentoring me personally. And so, I appreciate you and I want to thank you so much for giving us your time today.


Glenn [00:24:20] Thank you very much, Sandra. And I appreciate you to.


Dave [00:24:24] Sandie and Glenn, thank you so much for this conversation, Sandie just another example of how much we’re all working together in partnership, how much we’re all learning from each other. Glenn, thank you so much for your work. And we hope that you will take a few moments listening to this conversation to also hop online and to investigate some of the resources that came out of this conversation, not only this one, but also our past conversations. You can do that by going over to Endinghumantrafficking.org. If you haven’t already, I also would invite you to take the first step by downloading a free copy of Sandie’s book, The Five Things You Must Know: A Quick Start Guide to Ending Human Trafficking. It’ll give you the five critical things Sandie is identified in her work that you should know before you join the fight against trafficking. Access is at endinghumantrafficking.org. Also, their information about the Antihuman Trafficking Certificate program and more information, of course, about the Global Center for Women and Justice here at Vanguard University. All those details at Endinghumantrafficking.org. And we’ll see you back for our next conversation in two weeks. Thanks, Sandie.


Sandie [00:25:35] Thanks, Dave.


Dave [00:25:36] Take care everyone.

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