I met Wade Landers in the summer of 2009. Our team was preparing for a trip to Southeast Asia to document the sex trade and we decided to stop by Wade’s office in Joplin to get some counsel before leaving. Wade is one of those people who’s been everywhere….literally. I think he’s been to just about every nation on the planet working to plant churches, lead mission trips and strategically build the Kingdom.
So we asked him “What would you do if you were in our shoes?” He started laughing. “I’d plan ahead…you sure you guys really want to do this?…I mean, these people aren’t playing around. If you get caught messing with one of their investments you could get killed.” Quickly realizing that we were in over our heads, we listened.
Then his question came; “You know this happens to boys…right?”
Wrong. We knew about sexual abuse…but the trafficking and exploitation of boys wasn’t something we were familiar with. He slid a file towards me across his desk entitled “I Never Thought it Could Happen to Boys.” A 231 page PDF written in 2008 about the sexual exploitation of boys in Cambodia.
I couldn’t believe it. But we’ve seen it with our own eyes. There’s an entire “Boy Town” in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit district, and if you ask the right questions you can find the underground storehouses of trafficked boys. Untold numbers of adolescent boys being monitored by pimps and sold for sex in Acapulco’s public parks. There are weekend “gang rape” outings in South Africa’s Manenberg township – and the only participants are older boys…most of whom were raped when they were 3-6 years of age. There are the Dancing Boys of Afghanistan – and with them the cultural slogan “Women are for babies, but boys are for pleasure.” And Central America (the primary destination for American sex tourists) is littered with hotels that offer sex with boys almost as publicly as they do with women…San Jose is notorious for this. Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and the US are becoming just as proliferated.
It really doesn’t matter where you go; traffickers don’t exude boys because there’s a demand for boys. You don’t open up a restaurant unless you’re certain people are going to be hungry. In developing nations, boys can be just as vulnerable, poor and destitute as girls.
They’re kidnapped, drugged and coerced to feed the desires of men’s flesh…and the nourishment of this evil will continue to be perpetuated as long as most of us remain in the dark. Unfortunately, there is very little help or hope for victimized boys, currently, and there are no duplicable models of strategic aftercare.
The beauty in the ashes, however, is that once we know, we can act. That’s where Wade and his team have stepped up to the plate.
Today, Wade Landers directs the team at Blackbox International. Blackbox is a faith based, non-profit organization that exists to provide a holistic approach to aftercare for boys rescued from sex trafficking.
There is a growing awareness of the horrendous practice of trafficking people for sex. What is even more troubling is the number of children that are caught up in this vile practice. Current research suggests that over 1.2 million children are trafficked each year for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Conservative estimates say that of that number, there are over 400,000 under-age boys world-wide who are victims of sex trafficking.
They are being abused and raped, and in some cases, multiple times every day, because of the greed of “owners,” and the lust of “clients.” They need to be rescued, and they need to be healed. This is the vision and mission of Blackbox. There is an honest belief among their team that restoration is not only possible but MUST be an option for boys that have been violated by the practice of sex trafficking.