Sarah Bret Nedeau, ’11
May 22, 2013
The Gender Studies Program at Lewis & Clark helped ignite my passion for social justice. After graduating, I secured a job with Raphael House, a domestic violence shelter for women-identified survivors and their children. I had been interning there during the semester of Gender in the City, the gender internship class at Lewis & Clark.
I still work part-time with Raphael House, but my academic background in gender studies helped me branch out in the social work field and I am now the Lead Residential Counselor/Program Coordinator for Athena House, the Janus Youth Program that provides crisis and long-term residential support to commercially sexually trafficked youth. I’ve been with this program since it first opened in November of 2011. We work primarily with youth who are from the Portland area, as it is estimated that some 300 youth are currently being trafficked in and around Portland with the average age of entry into “the Life” estimated at 11-13. It is becoming quite evident that this is an extensive issue not only in Portland but across the country as well. Commercial sexual exploitation has its roots in patriarchal oppression and gender-based violence, the objectification of women and commodification of sex (though the spectrum of survivors includes young women, men, and trans-individuals with various sexual orientations), which all permeate broad institutional and social structures, as well as resonates down to individual interactions. I am proud and fortunate to be part of the anti-trafficking movement so these youth, older generations of sex workers, and our society can heal and fully appreciate empowered sexuality and gender equality.