Once isolation is successful, the transition to the life is all but complete. Now the girls are turned out, meaning that they have started to perform sexual acts in exchange for money. The pimp is getting their way: the girl is turned into a commodity, no longer treated as a human. They really are property under the control of their pimp.
This is the dark reality of sexual exploitation. Our best estimates are that there are 200 girls sold every night in Snohomish County. These are girls that have been through a grooming process and are now turned out. Not all of these girls are from our towns, but they are sold in our streets, our hotels, our truck stops. Our internet is being used to sell and solicit sex as well as download pornography where women controlled by pimps are used to make these videos. Men in our community are purchasing sexual acts from women who have suffered horrible lives of abuse with little to no thought of the girl. Even though the girls are used, they are not seen as humans, but as objects for sexual gratification.
Once in the life, these girls are put in high-risk situations every day. The fight-or-flight portions of their brain are firing on all cylinders, and too many days of this will lead to PTSD. Fear is the constant companion as they are put into situations that are hard to imagine. Once a girl is turned into an object, they are forced to endure all types of sexual depravity. They perform these sexual acts, often times, because it is the only way they can see out of the situation. They are truly stuck in the life and it is not what they thought it would be when they were being groomed.
Women in the life have to learn to make split-second decisions. They have only moments to figure out if the john is dangerous or just another trick. Many women in the life have been; raped, gang raped, beat, choked, punched, had objects used on them. The johns can be so violent, and they have to figure out if the john before them is one of the dangerous ones. These women have to master the art of discernment just to stay alive. They need to learn quick or they may end up dead.
Transactional relationships minimize the humanity of a person. They attempt to take a way a bit of dignity and worth with every misuse. A woman in the life only knows transactional relationships. She is paid for sex. She is used for sex. She is seen as a sexual object, someone who is not worthy of love. They are even told by their pimp that they have one purpose: to make him money at the cost of her body.
Every trick is a performance. The woman must learn to be what the man wants. From moans to sexual positions, they are the object of fantasy that the john pays for. These performances are a part of the life. Reality becomes skewed when you are constantly living in someone else’s fantasy. For the pimp you have to be his girl. For the john you have to be his dream. Between the two there is no more time left to be you. The girls very essence can be swallowed up by harsh realities of the life. This is just a further example of how these women are treated as objects. A friend values honesty over performance and recognizes that real friends are better than fantasy friends.
Being turned out is filled with physical danger and also comes with shame. They have been told they are dirty so often that they believe this “job” is what they were made for: this life, this awful abusive life. If the pimp doesn’t keep them in the life, shame will. Often, they put all the blame for being in the life on themselves. These women think that they can’t tell anyone what they’ve done or what’s been done to them. They’ve been told that no one will care anyway, because they feel unwanted. Having a head and heart full of shame is a very real danger of being in the life and it will take time and honesty to recover from this aspect of the life. Women are not made for this life, they are born worthy of love and care.
There is great sadness in violence. There is sadness in the john that makes them act out. But there is also great sadness in the violence of using women as objects instead of humans. There is a sadness in making a body and soul a commodity that can be bought and sold. We must allow our hearts to break as the sadness of violence happens in our community. I strongly believe that we need to have our eyes open and stay open to what is happening. Even if it is sad, it is also real. We can fight sadness for joy of a recovered soul. We can fight by having hope for those who are fighting to become themselves again.
I have read and heard many stories that I will not share because of their shocking truths. All the depravity that I have mentioned are not just statistics or stories, they are real life. These stories are not mine to share, but I want us all to know these are real people in the life. These are not objects, “women of the night,” or any other term you may want to use, some of these women are my friends. They have kids that they care about. They have moms that love them and friends that walk with them. They are not objects, they are real people that need real friends and need to experience real and pure love. The life is a sad reality, but it is real.
I want people to understand from this, is that these women and girls are real people. Sitting and listening to stories from my friends and other survivors breaks my heart. I honestly hurt when I hear what’s been done to their body and soul. Knowing that some of these things and worse have happened to some of my friends makes me want to use my voice to speak up about this injustice.
The best thing that we can do when meeting a survivor is to show them the love and respect, you’d show anyone else. They are not what’s been done to them. They are not what they’ve done either willingly or forced. We get to see them for who they are now. Strong women who have survived evils that most of us wouldn’t dare think about. If you ever have the privilege of meeting a prostitution survivor, don’t reminder them of their past, instead speak to them of how you see them. The survivor friends that I have are some of the bravest, strongest people I know. The fact that they enter into their past and deal with it every day. The fact that they learn to forgive past trauma and abuse. The fact that they are a testament of grace is a blessing. If you want information about the life read a book, don’t ask a survivor, allow them to be their changed selves.
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