by MATT MOLINAR // Associate Editor
[Editor’s note: This story is the second part of the multipart series “Risque Business,” examining the dangers of prostitution that begins with Issue #7 and concludes in Issue #12. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs, and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.]
[Be advised: Only the first name has been given in order to protect the identity of Emily.]
As a sexually traumatized teen turns to drugs to cope, she soon realizes she has an easy payment option – her own body.
At first glance, Emily looks like any well put-together 20-year-old. She’s kind, confident and easy to look at. It seems almost impossible to assume she once sold her body to multiple men in exchange for money and drugs while she was still enrolled in high school.
According to Laws.com, the average age a female becomes a prostitute is 14 years old. Many women who turn to prostitution at a young age are either forced into it or resort to it after living in an abusive home.
“There’s a whole background to this that stems from past trauma that altered me mentally,” explains Emily. “When I was 6 years old, I had an older cousin who was 15. At the time, he was having family issues, and my family took him into our home. After he had been living with us, over the span of about a year, he molested me, along with my two sisters.”
Emily says that she and her sisters ended up not telling anyone about the incident because their cousin threatened them. However, after he moved out, they spoke up.
“After he finally moved out, in April of 2004, we finally told on him,” Emily said. “My dad called the cops, who pretty much told us we had to move forward. But we were able to get a restraining order on him. We had to go through this whole experience where they literally looked at our bodies to make sure everything was OK and asked us to point out where we were touched. It was really uncomfortable for me, and I feel like I can still smell the room sometimes.”
Emily says that after making the claims, her father’s side of the family resented her and said that the accusations she made were false, making her feel rejected by the family.
“When I was 13 and a freshman in high school, this guy I was dating got what he wanted from me at a party, and never talked to me again,” she recalls. “And as a teenager who already had been traumatized, I started looking for drugs and basically lost my mind.”
Instead of getting a job as her peers were beginning to do, Emily resorted to using her body to pay for pills and pot from the men who originally introduced her to the drugs. She says it was normal for a dealer to drive her out to a supplier in order to get them to drop prices.
“Essentially, I traded sexual favors for either money or drugs,” Emily explained. “The last time I did it was when I was about 17. One time, I had a guy drive me out to some really rough projects in Lubbock when I was 15. I got out to make the purchase, my dealer said, ‘Give me the drugs, and you can keep her,’ and he basically traded me for some drugs from a group of men. But I knew that it was something I had done before, and I could do it again.”
Emily says her last “favor” was given when she was 17, nearly 50 favors in the span of a little more than two years. She says she was able to complete the exchanges without any emotional attachment, something she developed after being raped and taken advantage of when she was younger.
“I was barely getting through high school,” Emily explained. “I would get home, go to sleep, and wait for everyone else to go to sleep. I would get out, and then get back home just before everyone was beginning to wake up, and go back to school the next morning. They knew I was hanging around the wrong people, but I did a very good job of keeping things hidden.”
Emily says she spent many moments in the principle’s office with her parents, who were trying to figure out what was going on. They were never able to pinpoint what was keeping their daughter so distracted. She says that her parents have no idea she had been using her body to buy drugs.
“When you think of prostitutes, people don’t think of someone like me,” she said. “They think of a crazy woman standing on the side of the street with no teeth. But that’s not reality. Anybody could be doing it.”
Emily says the turning point in her life was learning about the death of a former lover who had overdosed on illegal drugs.
“We used to play golf together and lay around on the grass and drink,” Emily said. “He was awesome. He got heavily into drugs and got sent away by his parents. While I was working on straightening myself up, he came back and told me that sobering up wasn’t worth it.”
Emily says that her friend began dating another girl who was heavily addicted to drugs, preventing him from continuing with the help he had been receiving out of town.
“He was diabetic, and instead of buying insulin, he was buying her alcohol and drugs,” she said. “About a week after his parents began allowing him back into their home, he overdosed, and I was the third person to know.”
Three years later, Emily has plans of going through flight attendant training so she can have the opportunity to travel the world.
“I currently have a friend who is a flight attendant, and she’s trying to help me get a job with that,” Emily said. “The hours are insane, and traveling is something I have always wanted to do.”
According to Laws.com, 40 percent of child prostitutes remain under the influence of a trafficker or pimp through adulthood. Emily says that unless these women are given a protection program, they will more than likely continue living as a prostitute.
“Honestly, I feel like there should be some kind of involuntary program where prostitutes are forced into protective custody,” Emily explained. “Because what people fail to realize is that, yeah, there are girls selling themselves out there, but there’s usually a person behind them that’s taking most of the money from it. When they get arrested and end up getting the charge, they go back on to the streets.”
[Photo illustration by TOVI OYERVIDEZ / PLAINSMAN PRESS]