Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Being "on the side of" Prostitutes

The women we meet in this blog are the adult sort- of survivors of childhood abuse. Thirty, forty, fifty, and older, they are still struggling with the things that happened to them as children, faithfully recreating the abuse that was inflicted upon them when they were three, four, and five. Sometimes YANA works with the children themselves, though. Sid and her determined little band of volunteers collaborate with police and prosecutors, providing comfort and advocacy for those the government has chosen to consider the victims of human trafficking. By definition, anyone under the age of 18 who has prostituted is a trafficking victim, whether they cross jurisdictions or not. Often, by definition, they are also criminals and are prosecuted no matter how young they are. We will undoubtedly talk more about the children in later posts. Today, though, was a good reminder of where the grown up YANA women come from.

Sid and I talked before the women came in. Sid was still shocked and supremely frustrated by the treatment a teenage girl had received from some rural police. The girl, who was being prostituted by her father, and who was pregnant by one of her tricks, was interrogated at length by an officer who apparently knew both the father and the trick. She was told, repeatedly, that she was an habitual runaway and liar (wonder why she would be that?). She was told that, despite the fact that her father collected money from the tricks immediately after they screwed her, she was engaging in consensual sex. She was told that the victims services workers who were waiting for her in the building were nowhere around. She was told that they only wanted to help her in order to get her baby from her.

As far as anyone knows, the officer wasn't a rapist. He didn't have a thing for little girls, and he didn't profit from the prostitution. He had just chosen which side he wanted to be on, and it damn sure wasn't the side of a prostitute. In a sense, it's not an unreasonable choice. Being "on the side of" a prostitute, any aged prostitute, is painful, involving, as it does, the thought that mothers and fathers will sometimes do horrible things to their children, and that people can be hurt so badly that they will eventually start hurting themselves. What does that say about free will? Nothing most of us want to hear. Perhaps worst of all, it means that people we know, nice people, might have taken part in something evil when they decided to find out what being with a hooker is like. It's so much easier to believe that the homeless women wandering down Wilkens Ave. just decided to prostitute because they were too slutty and lazy to live normal lives. Besides, if you don't think being "on the side of" any aged prostitutes is just plain weird, tell all your coworkers that you read this blog. See what their reaction is.

And then, after you do that, maybe take things one step further, and tell them a benefit of reading. Without intervention, the isolation that little girl felt alone in an interrogation room with the sneering cop is something she could carry with her for the rest of her life. After what had been done to her by her own family, the contempt of the outside world could simply destroy her sense of being part of the human race. When we meet the women as individuals, not stereotypes they get to be human again. First they're human on the screen, then in our minds, then in the way we talk, eventually in the way that they get treated. The women I've met could use a few people on their side. They'd like to be seen as human again.


  1. I WILL be sharing this with my colleagues.
    Those most in need of perspective are the least likely to read this but I'm not afraid to challenge people to examine their preconceptions.

  2. That's wonderful! Whatever kind of response you get, please write back and tell us about it. I'm sure the people reading this blog will be interested in hearing your experience, and maybe we can start a series of comments and posts about what it's like to talk about this issues with others.

    Thanks! Vickie

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you so much for letting Vickie and all of us know that you'll be sharing her blog entries with your colleagues! They're lucky to have you around -- every one of us has to have our various preconceptions pulled out and gently examined a bit to make sure they're accurate takes on reality and not, uhhh...just preconceptions!

    I thank Vickie, too, for the fabulous job she's doing, both at YANA Place and on this blog. Vickie, I love reading what you've written and look forward to each new "installment"!!

    All my best,


  4. I read this after posting a notice on facebook about the need for blankets and coats at YANA for the coming winter. Several days have gone by and not one person among my 200+ facebook friends has made a comment. It's as if the post is not there. Very unusual. I usually get some response to my posts. I can't help but feel the post made some people uncomfortable.

  5. Thank you for asking for the coats and blankets. They are still very much needed -- in fact, I don't think we have any coats or blankets at all right now. The rehab. next door, BBH, has ended housing for everyone without insurance (over 150 people)so we have even more homeless clients.

    As for people being made uncomfortable, yes, I'm sure you're right. Almost everything about this issue makes people uncomfortable, particularly the business of parents prostituting their own children and law enforcement not protecting them. Getting funding for a project like YANA is a nightmare. Basically, we all just work for free.