There have been a handful of occasions in my years on the street where I'm listening to the story of a woman and wishing I could record her words because she is saying EVERYTHING I want people to know about the realities of the Game and prostitution. Last weekend we met S and I found myself in the same position.
S recently left her pimp and has a three old daughter. She is still working to support herself and her child and many of us would wonder why? If she is free of her violent and controlling pimp why can't she get off the street? As her story unfolds it carries all of the potential roadblocks and triggers that lead someone into this life and keep them there.
Somewhere along the way she mentioned foster care, my heart sank. Not that I didn't suspect it, but sometimes I find myself hoping it won't be so consistent. The abandonment and rejection, the constantly being left and discarded. A child is given no tools to care for themselves and they have nowhere to turn, nowhere that they belong.
In a search for belonging she finds her pimp, who is often her boyfriend. He meets the need for belonging even if it's the worst kind. If she ever gains a moment of clarity and realizes that he has been using her for his own gain (just as surely as many of her foster families did) he has made it so that she has little to no chance to survive on her own.
He took her ID. That's ok, it's not hard to get a new one. She's been arrested. He kept her from her court dates. With warrants for her arrest that she couldn't avoid she cannot get a new drivers license, a job, a place to live...
He told her that she was worthless. He told her no one would believe her, they would put her in jail instead. He told her he would kill her. Others have disappeared before.
She left him because she has a daughter, a daughter who she grieves for and simultaneously dares to dream for. Grieving because of the years that have already been given over to something less than, grieving because what if she can't get out? What if she can't move on? What if she tries to and they take her daughter away? But dreaming, dreaming of a what it would be like to give her daughter a future that she herself never had a chance to know. Dreaming of being home when her daughter comes home from school, to tuck her in at a night and hold her when she has a bad dream.
The fear is almost paralyzing. The unknowns insurmountable. The road before her is long and hard and there is no way to make it easy. But she sees with more clarity than ever before, anything is better than this. Anything is better than wondering if you are going to survive another night, if you will be robbed or raped or killed. Anything is better than someone telling you they love you and turning around and selling you to anyone and everyone.
You can hear this story and feel overwhelmed and defeated, sometimes I do. But you can also hear this and with gratitude and hope in your heart, lean into the pain and dare to dream with her. It will cost you too. I don't know what, we're all called in different ways. It might cost you in empathy, or time. It might cost you financially or in dashed dreams, and the cost may not outweigh the results in this lifetime. You and she and I are in this together, whether we see it or not, my freedom and healing are wrapped up in hers and vice versa.
I don't know how you'll respond to this story, but I pray that you'll hear it. I pray that you will see the realities faced by men and women caught in this life are in no way simple or easy to overcome. That the pain and loss is beyond measure. At the same time I pray that you will hope with me for a restoration that only God can bring, for a miraculous redemption of what was lost, sold and given away, for a heart that willingly bears the burdens of others knowing that we are in this thing called humanity together and together with God, we find hope and healing.
"Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces."