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From research to action: South Korean practitioners mobilize to support boy survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse

Posted on Jul 24, 2023
Driving actionable change through research-driven solutions

Seoul, South Korea—In April 2023, ECPAT member Tacteen Naeil, the South South Institute on Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys, and M’Lop Tapang, with support from ECPAT International, hosted a two-day workshop in Seoul aimed at advancing the crucial work of service providers who support boys affected by sexual exploitation and abuse. 

Over 22 practitioners across South Korea came together to build upon the findings of the 2021 ‘South Korea Boys Report’, which examined the factors placing boys at risk, revealed gaps in existing support services, and identified the urgent action needed to improve protection mechanisms. 

Despite the sexual exploitation of boys being on the rise in South Korea, Eunwoo Song, Programme Manager at Tacteen Naeil, highlighted the challenges boys face in accessing support services: 

“Boy survivors still find it difficult to know where to seek help, as there isn’t sufficient support or information available.” 

Through a combination of group reflections, in-depth discussions, and interactive activities, participants discussed the findings of the report, identified learning and support needs, and explored solutions to improve gender-sensitivity in support services for boys.   

Several key learnings emerged from the workshop: 

Research as a catalyst for action: The facilitators stressed that research should not be viewed the ‘final product’, but rather, a catalyst for action to prompt responses and revisions to policies, programmes, and services. To effectively support boys, service providers must design innovative approaches grounded in research data and the voices of survivors. 

Impact of gender norms: Participants explored how gender norms influence their work and shape their perceptions of the risks, vulnerabilities, and needs of boys. While addressing discrimination against girls remains essential, practitioners recognized the importance of considering the unique needs of boys to ensure truly inclusive services. Eunwoo explained how gender biases can impact the work of practitioners: 

“Often, gender norms can present challenges for female counsellors who are more accustomed to working with women victimized by men, as recognizing boys as victims of sexual exploitation and abuse requires a shift in perspective. In some cases, the fear of male clients being uncontrollably aggressive may also create challenges in the support process.” 

Learning needs and future curriculum: The workshop highlighted a number of learning and support needs of service providers. From basic knowledge of abuse and exploitation to interventions supporting boys’ healing, this information will inform the development of a future curriculum to address these areas. 

As the workshop concluded, participants expressed their determination to make a difference in boys’ lives and collaborate on future initiatives. By openly sharing insights and challenges, the service providers identified opportunities for action that exceeded expectations, paving the way for systemic change within their organizations and beyond. 




At the 2016 Global Survivors Forum organised by ECPAT International, male survivor-advocates of sexual exploitation explained that services for boys were extremely rare, and even where services may include boys in their work, there is limited focus on addressing the specific characteristics, experiences and supports required by boys. 

In 2019 to delve into this, ECPAT co-authored an academic paper that looked at the global situation of sexual exploitation of boys. It showed that despite a growing global awareness that boys do experience sexual exploitation, and at greater rates than previously recognised, there is limited research available to fully tell this story. 

As the programmatic responses to identify and meet the particular needs of boys are scarce, ECPAT International launched the Global Initiative to explore the sexual exploitation of boys which activates our global network of member organisations in a range of research and response activities. 

Learn more about the Global Boys Initiative here.