Safe House Initiative for Sexually Exploited Boys

by Real Stories Gallery Foundation 501c3
Dec 18, 2012


"These are all our children. It is simply not true that our communities are doing everything they are able to alleviate the pain being so needlessly inflicted on boys, every day. If we believe it is outrageous and cruel, we must slash through the red-tape that binds us into inaction. If we do not believe it is possible to affect the quality of a boy's life so he chooses to reach for his adulthood, then we must provide humane spaces and medical procedures that alleviate the pain experienced by all the boys segregated for slow and violent premature death in our communities. For boys living with acute trauma, stable safe housing serves their best interests. Stable safe housing leads to better health for boys living with HIV/AIDS and prevents the spread of the virus. Stable safe housing helps boys access and commit to complex and often debilitating HIV/AIDS treatment regimes. Stable safe housing reduces a boy's risk of premature death from exposure to infections and diseases, poor nutrition, stress and lack of medical care." Rachel Chapple, PhD (Founder, Real Stories Gallery Foundation 501c3)

Since my twelve year old son was born, sexualized violence against men and boys – including rape, sexual torture, mutilation of the genitals, sexual humiliation, sexual enslavement, forced incest and forced rape – has been reported in 25 armed conflicts across the world. If cases of sexual exploitation of boys displaced by violent conflict are also included the list encompasses the majority of 59 armed conflicts identified in the Human Security Report.

Male-directed sexual violence is a mechanism by which men and boys are placed or kept in a position subordinate to other men. Disclosure is further challenged in contexts where homosexual activity attracts SOCIAL and LEGAL penalties. Yet in reality the vast majority of male perpetrators ALSO frequently engage in sexual activities with their wives and girlfriends, and with other men who have sex with other men who have sex with other women.

The violence experienced by boys whose lives are changed forever in the international sex trade is located in this context. 

SHOW ME YOUR LIFE, SAFE HOUSE is a research and design initiative in which the SMASH STREET BOYS and their friends are speaking to the question: Why do you feel the quality of your life and those of your peers will be raised if you have access to stable safe shelter, appropriate & consistent healthcare and humane legal representation.

WHAT GETS MEASURED GETS DONE: To secure stable safe shelter means securing funding from communities in financial crisis. Before funders commit their limit resources to creating stable safe shelter for survivors they want proof that stable safe shelter serves survivors best interests (reduces daily danger, makes it easier to commit to complicated medical regimes, etc). There are limited funds available to collate the type of proof that funders like to presented with before they decide whether to commit their limited resources for the creation of stable safe shelter for survivors. So a dilemma presents itself...

What to do here. We believe DOING some thing is the solution. The survivors themselves do not have much time away from finding ways to survive in each 24 hour period they are living, nor do they have more than a few dollars in today's global financial crisis. However, they do have two valuable resources 1) their belief that stable safe shelter will improve the quality of their lives and serve their best interests, and all those of their peers, and 2) their creativity and intelligence, two skills finely honed whilst surviving in highly challenging environments. By harnessing the survivors considerable strengths, along with the tools and networks created in their innovative SHOW ME YOUR LIFE online and peer-to-peer mentored art program, they will do the legwork to show why they feel the quality of their lives will be raised if they have access to stable safe shelter, appropriate & consistent healthcare and humane legal representation.

The kids are taking a big risk, choosing to get involved and share their limited resources and time, especially as the outcome is unknown... Perhaps their research and design initiative will serve as a catalyst for stable safe shelter being created in our communities for and/or with survivors. Perhaps their collaborative research and design process will reveal to the survivors a way they can create stable safe shelter for themselves and their peers, so they can live away from the violence and support each other. Nothing is certain, apart from knowing that something will happen as a result of this highly unusual and very practical initiative founded on the survivors' compassion towards their peers and their intense yearning for so many of their peers to live as they are dying prematurely...

Each year in the USA thousands of youth enter or are at risk of entering the delinquency and criminal justice systems because of noncriminal misbehaviors. These misbehaviors are commonly referred to as “status offenses.” Common examples of status offenses include running away from home, chronic truancy, alleged out-of-control or incorrigible behavior and curfew violations… How juvenile status offenders are legislatively labeled affects the services they receive and has long-term implications for the child’s quality of life as both a minor and an adult. Labeling them “delinquent” or “status offenders” limits their access to effective early medical interventions. Moreover, the punitive features of the delinquency system imply some wrongdoing on the part of the youth. A youth adjudged delinquent carries the stigma of being a “bad person.” A youth adjudicated as a ‘status offender” may be viewed or treated as a “pre-delinquent.” Sadly, in a large percentage of cases, running away is not the first trauma these youth experience. Many children who run away or are unaccompanied and homeless faced other problems at home that preceded their flight or forced removal…

Residential Census of Juvenile Facilities of 2006 reported most surveyed shelters are privately held and about half hold 10 or fewer youths at a time. Few homeless youth are housed in emergency shelters as a result of lack of shelter beds for youth and shelter admission policies. Youths who enter a shelter may be suffering from abuse, neglect, or mental health disorders or have prior involvement with the criminal justice system (Litrownik 1999). Youths in shelters are likely to have emotional and behavioral problems as well as other special needs and concerns (Volta and Manion 2003). Homeless youth benefit from programs that meet immediate needs first and then help them address other aspects of their lives. Programs that minimize institutional demands and offer a range of services have had success in helping homeless youth regain stability (Robertson, 1996). The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the US Department of Justice’s most recent study, published in 2002, estimated there are 1,682,900 homeless and runaway youth. According to the National Network of Runaway and Youth Services, six percent [200,000] of homeless youth are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) (Molino, 2007). Because of their age, homeless youth have few legal means by which they can earn enough money to meet basic needs. Many homeless adolescents find that exchanging sex for food, clothing, and shelter is their only chance of survival on the streets. In turn, homeless youth are at a greater risk of contracting AIDS or HIV-related illnesses (, 2012).

Why are there no supportive structures built around safe places where these kids practising survival sex can be tested and treated. Why has PEPFAR ignored this very significant piece of the HIV/AIDS puzzle.

The Department of Justice is proud to reaffirm its ongoing commitment to protect – and advance – the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS.  And – in accordance with the objectives outlined by President Obama in the landmark National HIV/AIDS Strategy, we are working harder than ever to end discrimination that is still routinely – and tragically – experienced by those with HIV/AIDS.

Center for Disease Control (CDC) has supported the implementation of the President’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). CDC’s goals are to identify previously unrecognized HIV infections, improve health outcomes, and reduce HIV transmission. Ensuring those with HIV are aware of their infection is a key strategy for both improving the health of those infected and for preventing HIV transmission.  Efforts to increase HIV testing and improve linkage to medical care are critical to lowering HIV viral load and improving the health of people living with HIV. CDC targets are consistent with NHAS—to increase the proportion of newly diagnosed persons being linked to clinical care within three months of their HIV diagnosis. As a principal USG agency implementing PEPFAR, CDC’s primary role in global HIV/AIDS is to strengthen national responses to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, save the lives of persons living with HIV/AIDS, and enhance health systems to ensure local capacity for a comprehensive and self-sufficient response (2013 Congressional Justification CDC budget overview).

Criminalization of HIV transmission laws need to be urgently revisited to ensure they do not undermine public health and social interventions and programs designed to serve the best interests of acutely vulnerable youth in both developed and developing countries. It is important to distinguish between an act of violent intentional HIV transmission and an act of unintentional HIV transmission. If we fail to do this we will simply reinforce the stigma already assigned to the millions of people living with HIV and deter people from seeking testing and treatment.

In the United States many HIV criminalization laws put into place after the 1990 Ryan White Act articulated that states would not receive funding unless state laws criminalized knowingly exposing another to HIV. These laws best speak to acts of intentional violence such as rape (also widely used to terrorize and subjugate in conflict & transitional settings). These laws should not be used to penalize victims of rape, forced rape or forced intravenous drug use, who have inappropriate and inconsistent access to early intervention including HIV counseling, testing and treatment. These laws should not be used to penalize victims choosing to seek HIV counseling, testing and treatment.

Criminalization of HIV transmission sends a message : If you do not know you are HIV+ you cannot be accused of intentional HIV transmission. If you do not get tested for HIV you will not know you have HIV.

Criminalization of HIV transmission can undermine programs designed to prevent HIV transmission, because fear of prosecution deters children, who face further violence upon disclosure of HIV, from seeking care.

Antiretrovirals, if taken appropriately and consistently, can reduce a person's infectiousness. For this reason public health organizations have been keen to introduce HIV testing and treatment, particularly among high risk groups and bridge populations. In many cases antiretroviral regimes can also contribute to raising a person's quality of life and extending the length of a person's life.

High rates of sexual violence, the inability to negotiate safe sex — particularly in abusive adult controlled & determined social & cultural contexts — and socio-economic inequalities are some of the contributing factors that increase the vulnerability of children to contracting HIV. Marginalized children, including drug users, sex workers, and children engaged in transactional sex are particularly vulnerable to contracting HIV. 

Criminalization exacerbates the current stigmatization, neglect, and violence against HIV-positive ‘throwaway and abandoned’ children and creates unnecessary challenges for programs whose goal is to raise the quality of life for all HIV+ children, reduce violence and arrest HIV-related infections and diseases. Children with special needs who also happen to be infected with HIV cannot be segregated from care by punitive laws that do not discriminate wisely in contexts where sexualized violence directed at boys is not being addressed appropriately to serve the best interests of children (under eighteen year old males, UN categorization).

Male-directed sexual violence is a mechanism by which men and boys are placed or kept in a position subordinate to other men. Localities that condone male-directed sexual violence make men and boys reluctant to report this exercise in power and humiliation.

A boy subjected to sexualized violence does not feel safe to disclose in the USA; even in a big country like the USA where an estimated 19 million males are living with the consequences of having had unwanted sexual experiences as boys. The vast majority of male-directed sexual violence in the USA is as elsewhere in the world spoken of in hushed tones by the general public and their spokespersons, if at all.

Boys whose lives are changed forever by sexualized violence in contemporary humanitarian disasters such as human trafficking and in the international sex trade in boys, are being sacrificed by peoples whose law enforcement structures tolerate male-directed sexual violence as a direct and indirect form of punishment in structures such as penal systems, detention centers.

The lack of public acknowledgment and outrage over boys being sacrificed to placate adult males desire to punish and humiliate, sends a clear message to boys who are sexually violated in the USA and beyond ~ take it like a man, it's not that serious, par for the course.

Early intervention makes a profound difference. Having a place to go where a boy will feel safer, where he has appropriate and consistent nutrition and medical care, greatly impacts the quality of life for a survivor who feels abandoned and is contemplating whether it is worth reaching for an adulthood to be lived in immensely challenging contexts and in a time when there is no cure for a virus that aggressively attacks a traumatized boy's developing and vulnerable immune system.



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Organization Information

Real Stories Gallery Foundation 501c3

Location: New York - USA
Website: https:/​/​
Project Leader:
Rachel Chapple Bardhan
New York, New York United States

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