I am a survivor of the sex trade. I am also a survivor of a couple of car accidents, more than a few bad relationships and a broken nail the day before vacation. This in no way minimizes the dreadful experience many survivors of the sex trade experience but – as it is 18 years in my rear view mirror – I have to say that pretty much everyone has experienced some kind of crappy experience and managed to come out of it and – well – survive. I aged out. I woke up one day and realized that my days of having people believe I was 22 were over. Never saw it coming and wasn’t it prepared for it.

I’m an advocate for women who want to exit voluntarily and for people who want to stay. I think that when a person in the sex trade wants out, they should be able to get out without having to endure all the stuff they have to endure. They should be able to get what they need to get on with their lives and be as happy and healthy as the choices they make. I think that when people want to stay – for whatever reason – they also shouldn’t be ostracized, stigmatized, arrested and harassed.

There shouldn’t be any stigma attached to the history and he or she should be no more subject to not being able to get a good job and earn a good living. In the past, I earned a good living as a hairdresser and I get to work as much or as little as I like. I could own my own salon – and I have – but I’m a “people person, so I prefer to work for or with someone else and have them pay all the bills and worry about how to keep the lights on. I love to interact with clients and my co-workers and we have a great time at work. We occasionally even joke about my former profession. My bosses know – my co-workers know – and a lot of my clients know about my past. And it doesn’t concern them a single bit. My specialties are stripper blondes and porn star bangs. A little levity, please!  Being sexy is fun!  Being sexualized or fetishized is not.

I used to have my own organization to help women get out of prostitution but the “sex trafficking” organizations got really nervous about my decision to only help the ones who wanted help and they were shocked that I didn’t want to scurry around bad parts of town in the middle of the night doing “rescues”. I know a couple of pimps and they have some issues but I’m not scared of them and they aren’t scared of me. I know Sex Workers. I know Prostitutes. I know Street Walkers. I know escorts. And I know that if and when ANY of them decides to leave or needs something – that THEY know they can call on me for advise. They know I love them and I accept them as they are – where they are.

And the church ladies weren’t really crazy that I didn’t insist that they “accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior” and jump through a bunch of hoops of fire to get an education and an apartment. Or even a job. I worked with one girl who came to me after 12 weeks living in a shelter and daily attending 8 hours a day of a “program” and church services 3 times a week and she didn’t arrive with so much as a resume. They blackballed me and tried to accuse me of providing drugs and prostituting the women that were staying at the 2 bedroom apartment that I rented to bridge the HUGE gap in housing and services. The top church lady in charge of all the other church ladies came after me because she was jealous that my message of Love, Joy, Peace and Forgiveness resonated with the girls she wanted to “join her program” and she wanted all the attention for herself and her brand new PhD.

I survived that too.

I’m not into politics. Not in My lane. I don’t care to be involved with politicians. They are creepy and the laws they pass rarely impact the women I seek to serve.

I think this issue is a human rights issue in that those in the sex trade should have rights. They should have the right to report a crime without being harassed. They should have the same kind of access to education that everyone else does. They should have health and safety information. They should be able to get financial guidance for how to manage their money. They should have a place to call that can help them get what they need to have a good life. If they stay or if they leave the sex trade.

We women need to build bridges between all of our different experiences and embrace our differences and work to provide protection and assistance for those who DO need help. WHEN they WANT help. Not when its forced upon them by someone else’s agenda or morals or standards.

I’ve spoken to multiple side of the issue and I think we can all agree that we don’t want to see other women and children hurt and I think we can be stronger together if we can set aside the things we disagree on and focus on the things we can work on to create a better world.

If you are a #sanesurvivor – speak up. There are more of us out there than you might think. I’d love to hear about solution for resources and not rhetoric about “victim’s vs survivors” or who is or isn’t a “real victim”.

We really can be STRONGER TOGETHER!!!