Posts from the Dominican Republic: Observing What We’ve Learned

Natalia post_280x280Adler School faculty and clinical psychologists Nataka Moore and Kevin Osten-Garner along with students in our Human Rights & International Immersion course with Heartland Alliance are in the Dominican Republic this month working with community agencies on a number of fronts: creating community-level education & prevention interventions for internalized stigmas related to homophobia & heterosexism, domestic violence, and harm-reduction strategies for substance use and HIV.

From the Dominican Republican, doctoral clinical psychology student Chimare Eaglin writes:

Today, we enjoyed a free day visiting the beaches of Santo Domingo–from the private, quiet beaches where we relaxed, to the popular and controversial beach of Boca Chica, which we’ve learned so much about through our readings. We’ve read about the sex tourism to places in Boca Chica; the beaches are explained to be one of the major environments for sex workers to find clients.

For someone who hadn’t read the material we did, they might not notice the workers. The exchange itself is very subtle, and you might miss it if you aren’t aware. In our short time in Boca Chica, we noticed five sex workers and their clients, who are predominantly older, white males. In a typical exchange, the male client will sit by himself at a table at a bar or restaurant, having a drink or relaxing on a beach chair, seemingly waiting for someone.

The sex worker is very used to recognizing and targeting potential clients, and attempts to solicit business by nonchalantly sitting down next to a white male who exhibits those familiar behaviors. The client and sex worker will begin to converse and even have lunch, and seem to enjoy each others’ company before leaving the establishment or beach together. Again, because both the sex worker and client have done this before, the exchange is very smooth and can easily go unrecognized.

It was a very different atmosphere, but much of what we expected, and turned out to be a learning experience in itself. We spent the evening reflecting over the common themes we’re seeing during our time here, which are exactly as our literature depicts, and figuring out what we plan to take away from this experience.