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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Woman helps rescue boys from sex trade

Jen Jewett says she's nervous about how she'll react to seeing children as young as toddlers being sold for sex.
Jen Jewett says she's nervous about how
 she'll react to seeing children
 as young as toddlers being sold for sex.
 (Courtesy of Uptown Saint John)

Jen Jewett, of Saint John, will travel to Cambodia next month

A Saint John woman will travel to Cambodia next month to help with efforts to get children out of the sex trade.

Jen Jewett will spend five weeks with an organization that's setting up a safe house and training program for boys who have been rescued from brothels.

About 60 per cent of children living in brothels there are boys, but it's seldom discussed, she said.

"In their culture, men are basically like untouchable. There's a saying that men are like gold and they can't be tarnished and women are like cloth or something and once they're stained, it's done," said Jewett.

"And I was reading about how government sometimes, if they take boys out of brothels, they will just throw them back onto the street because they don't want to acknowledge that boys have been in there too.

"It's just sort of ignored and pushed aside because they don't want to deal with that."

As a result, there are currently no safe houses designated for boys in Cambodia. That's why the missionary group, Iris Cambodia, decided to set one up, said Jewett.

"It's just a place that we will provide a safe area for them basically to try to rehabilitate themselves and teach them other skills they can use so they don't have to sell their bodies," she said. "So they can sew, or cook, or something instead."

Daunting task
Jewett won't be part of the raids on brothels, but she will help rehabilitate the victims back at the safe house.

Still, she's a bit nervous about how she will react to seeing children as young as toddlers being sold for sex.

"I love kids so much and…I can't imagine that this is happening to kids, you know, which is why it's something that I want to be involved in, but it's also really scary, the thought of what will happen when I see that. I don’t know how I'll react."

Cambodia, which borders Thailand, has one of the highest rates of child sex trafficking, said Jewett.

"It's just so common that it's not hidden, it's everywhere," she said.

"It's just part of the mindset. If parents need to provide for the rest of the family, they sell one of their kids, or kids are kidnapped into it sometimes, or sometimes they think they're going to a real job and so their parents send them off but then they end up taking them to a brothel instead of a farm or something."

Still, as difficult as the experience may be, Jewett felt compelled to get involved with the organization, whose founders she met five years ago while volunteering at an orphanage in Africa.

"I feel like it's just, you have to do something about it. It's something that's so wrong, you can't just pretend that life goes on as normal, you know?"

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