By Amanda Wake, Youth Organizer
For the past 5 years I've lived off of International Blvd. in Oakland. Seeing sex workers on International is the norm at almost any time during the day. Strong Families works to de-stigmatize some of our most vulnerable communities. We work to break down the stereotypes and stigmas young mothers face through much of our work, including our music video and blogs. Sex workers face a lot of stigma and the reality is that we don't always take the time to think about what sends women down that path. Oakland organizations like Asian Health Services and the youth program, Banteay Srei are doing just that. They work with these women and have helped Oakland redefine sex workers from criminals to abuse victims. Below is an excerpt from a recent New York Times article that lifts up the stories of these young women and redefines the words sex workers:
Kalea, a 15-year-old Cambodian-American girl who grew up in Oakland, kept coming in to be examined for sexually transmitted diseases, the beginning of a grim cycle of diagnosis and treatment. “I started asking, ‘Are you having sex with new people?’ ” Dr. Chang, 37, recalled. “It was always, ‘No, no, no, no, no.’ Eventually she confided that she was worried about ‘a friend.’ That’s when I asked, ‘Are you trading sex for money?’ ”Read the full article on The New York Times website by clicking here.
Emerging from a long, dark tunnel, Kalea slowly began to spill her stories. How her father beat her. The childhood rape. The out-of-control john who tied her up in a motel bathtub and filled it with scalding water.
Seven years and hundreds of patients later, Dr. Chang’s clinic, Asian Health Services, is in the vanguard of a new public health approach to treating American-born minors lured into the sex trade, a problem enforcement officials and child advocates say has exploded with the Internet.
Once viewed as criminals and dispatched to juvenile centers, where treatment was rare, sexually exploited youths are increasingly seen as victims of child abuse, with a new focus on early intervention and counseling. There is growing recognition that doctors can be first responders, intervening before long years of exploitation and abuse can take an even greater toll.