What if you were driving through the city at night? Imagine any American city. If your brain is sharp and you know what to look for, you’re almost guaranteed to spot a woman (or man) “of the night.” Best case scenario – you’re socially aware. Your heart doesn’t scoff with judgment. Your heart pounds with compassion.
“Oh,” you almost whisper. “I wish I could help that prostitute.”
At that moment you planted a barrier to love.
One of the first things we learned in HOPE61 training is the first step to demonstrating love to those who have been trafficked, abused, or forced into giving themselves up by the circumstances of life. It’s not handing them food or even calling the National Human Trafficking hotline. (Both good things at the appropriate time.) It’s recognizing they are not defined by that moment on the street even if those moments add up to a lifetime.
Rather than calling someone a prostitute, the distinction should be made of a prostituted person. This isn’t being politically correct. It is recognizing how that lifestyle is never chosen. Documentary after interview after book of first-hand accounts agree, no little girl or boy wakes up one day and sets a life goal of trashing their body and spirit. Even if they “choose” to walk into it as a teenager or adult, life’s events probably hemmed them in to that point.
This is the first step to love for the prostituted person.
That was something I rarely thought about myself, so I appreciate it being one of the first lessons in our training. Sometimes I still have to correct myself! But that first step to compassion is too important to brush away.
It’s impossible to deny the existence of a strong commercial sex industry, flourishing throughout the world. This is the list we made in our notebooks during training featuring common ways sex sells.
1. 93% of pornography websites (roughly 4 million) belong to the United States.
2. Pornography (sexual acts in film and/or photos)
3. Phone sex services
4. Live stage acts
5. Strip clubs/strip tease
6. Table & lap dances
7. Virtual prostitution
We went further back, too. If no boy or girl wakes up one morning and thinks prostitution would be a great life dream, what contributes to that kind of change? Again, from our notebooks…
2. low education
3. neglect or no family support
4. poor self-esteem
5. abusive or absent father
6. orphaned or lived on the streets as a kid
7. racial minority
Of course, these traits are not always present in a person who participates in the commercial sex industry. There are privileged, white girls who end up in the same situation; and people fitting these denominators aren’t any less street-smart. Another list we made…
1. work opportunities
2. marriage promise
4. higher education options
5. fame (modeling, acting)
6. short-term promise for a better future
7. better living for the person’s family
A note on #8, for those who disagree. A woman featured in several anti-trafficking documentaries as a previously prostituted woman said that, along with identifying with several of the “common denominators” listed, the movie “Pretty Woman” was a key motivator for her. In the movie the main character is a worker in the sex industry and through it lands a happily-ever-after ending. Movies, music, and TV shows that trivialize pornography and prostitution are not a small thing. What you put into your mind matters regardless of your age.
A final note on the Common Denominators: poverty is listed first, and many of the deceptions/promises brought up are something appealing to an impoverished person. As Westerners we can rationalize the lengths to which someone would go if they were living in a tiny Asian village with little or no food.
But I’ve also learned that poverty is no excuse.
Sound harsh? Next time, I’ll explain!
Thanks for reading.