We had been out on the streets for about an hour when I approached Baby Doll (not her real street name) with a gift bag. As many girls are, she was confused why we were giving her the gift and why we were out on the streets of LA so late at night. I began telling her how special, unique and loved she was. That God has not forgotten her and loves her deeply. She seemed a little taken off guard, but then said she appreciated the message we were spreading because many of the women out on the streets needed to hear it.
Me: “But you don’t?”
Baby Doll: “Naw, I know why I’m out here, and I won’t be out here long. I’ve just gotta pay the bills and then I’m done. I’m in school to get my degree. I have a son! I’m just doing what I have to do to take care of myself”
Me: “How’s that going? Taking care of yourself? Is it working out? Are you sick of it yet?”
Baby Doll: “Oh hells yes. I am about at the end of my rope. But I’ve got no other options, just got to do it a bit longer until I get to a place where I feel like I can take care of my baby and me”
Me: “You really think you’ll stop? Think you’ll ever feel secure enough?”
Baby Doll: “I hope so.”
What would you have done to offer help to this woman? Out on the track we run into a lot of women like Baby Doll. They don’t think they are the ones in need of help, and yet they hate the circumstances they find themselves in with no real end in sight. When we try to offer help in getting them to a safe house, job skills training and other connections they are immediately skeptical because they have been failed so many times before and they’ve tried to get a job so many times before, they know going that direction is a long road that most often ends in disappointment.
In a news article from WAFB in Georgia a prostitute unknowingly did an informal interview with a police officer. Her responses were not uncommon:
“Department of Labor is giving no jobs. McDonald’s, Burger King ain’t hiring. The only thing left for a woman to do in Savannah is sell their body,” Rhonda said. “Prostitution ain’t nothing bad. It happened long time ago. It happened in Jesus Christ’s time.”
Rhonda and Edwards engaged in a 30 minute debate on programs and agencies available to help Rhonda, and others in her situation.
“What do you got to offer me? Nothing but the streets again,” she said. “I need help. What are y’all going to do to help?”
I asked her what she is going to do to help herself.
“Prostituting,” she said.
What advice would you give Rhonda? How would you respond to and help her? It is difficult for women with a “criminal” past and a serious lack of options to find viable options for supporting and sustaining themselves. And too often we as a society have failed them. We have done the easy work of getting them off the streets but gotten exhausted when it comes to the long hard work of walking with them through rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Rhonda seems like she does not mind prostitution and is fine with her situation – but I guarantee you that if she actually thought there was a chance for her to do something else with her life that would not end in failure and disappointment, she would jump at it.
How would you respond to Rhonda? What hope do you have to offer Baby Doll? What can the Church do to make it possible for them to find something sustainable other that prostituting themselves? Prostitution is seen as a choice – but it is a lack of choice, lack of freedom, lack of options and last resort of survival.