Amsterdam bound

Amsterdam bound. Yes, I am, thanks to a dear friend who asked if I would join her on the Missions Focused trip with our church. With this trip, we will learn from our pastor, Jeff Adams, who will teach us about the missionary view and cultural sensitivity. I have heard of so many life-changing experiences from those who have attended this trip in past years, both in their worldview and understanding of God’s grace.

My friend, Wendy, has such a huge heart for reaching out to others. I’m sure this trip will be one of great growth for the both of us. I thought of sharing in my own words why this trip will be so amazing, but allowing my friend, Wendy, to share her story with you will be more than I could ever say.

Wendy’s Story:

But by the grace of God…..that is so true to my life.  I had the husband, two children, two new cars, nice house in the suburbs. Then one day it was gone. The marriage was over, husband did not support us and in turn I could not support my children. He also made threats to harm my children, so I had to make one of the hardest choices of my life and place my children in my brother’s home for him to raise them for me.  It was then and still today is the best choice for my children.

So then I had to try life on my own, well I always had God, but I didn’t access Him. I felt unworthy of God and his blessings. So I tried to control my life on my own…and guess what…it spun out of control. I got a great job for a major company making $38K a year. Bought a car and purchased a house. And oh yeah, the man….he promised me so much and gave so little. But I believed he loved me and if I stood by him and trusted him..well,  I thought he would see his own mistakes. He had a gambling problem, drug problem and loved a life of drama.

He introduced me to the world of prostitution. At first he just asked me to come up with catchy little ads to run in the Pitch (a local newspaper here known for its sex ads). Then he would bring young girls home and ask me to talk to them about how to treat a man, to take the street at out of them, and explain to them how much they would receive and why we would keep their money. At first I thought I was helping them, since they all had drug addictions and would sell themselves for a piece of crack. He convinced me that we were showing them how to make more money to help themselves. I would clean them up, get them a nice outfit, new under clothes, shoes, take their pictures and post an ad on the internet. Didn’t take long to realize, they never got ANY of the money and he keep them under control by supplying them with their drug habits. Sure we gave them a place to stay and fed them, but I would soon find out the price they were paying was much higher than money alone.

The girls would all leave after time and next I was hearing how I didn’t try hard enough for our home. Even though I still had my job making $38K, I needed to do more.  So one day I did.  I posted an ad for myself. The phone rang 15 minutes later and I was off to my first “call”. I don’t remember being nervous on the way there. What I do remember was collecting $700 for a little less than two hours of my time. I remember walking out and getting to the car and crying all the way home. And then when I got home he  was absolutely horrible to me. As a matter of fact he beat me the next day, so badly that I couldn’t go on my next “call” for two weeks, because of the bruises and cuts. Well, this became my life…I would go on calls and about every three weeks or so he would go into a rage and beat me. Each time took me to the hospital. Once I came home on crutches, once I was in shock and didn’t know my name, twice I had a broken collar bone, and once I bled until I passed out on my bedroom floor. But I always went back, I mean he would pick me up from the hospital. I can’t explain to you why, but all I wanted to do was go back to him. Twice I did go to a shelter for battered women, but I had him come and get me. I even went to Minnesota to live with my brother for three months, and guess what….that’s right I came home to him again.  And after being home for two months…he had convinced me to start running ads and make him money again. By now the car and been repo’d, the house in foreclosure, and I had been arrested several times because I was taking the fall for him. Well between the second week of Sept to the last week of Nov. I had made over $40K selling myself, but I was getting evicted and never had any money and life just keep spinning.

Then the most amazing thing happened…I was arrested in Wyandotte County for prostitution. It was amazing because now I had a GOOD reason to stop or at least slow down. With all the money I had made he couldn’t even bail me out. I had to call my parents. My dad. I has daddy’s little girl and I had to tell him what I had done. But he loved me. He came and bailed me out. Had to wait seven hours outside the jail for them to release me, but he waited.

The courts had me go to this place called Veronica’s Voice. I had never heard of it and didn’t want to find out either. But it was go there or get a felony conviction for prostitution and go to prison. So I went. At first I hated it. Didn’t talk much and thought I was different. I’m not. Every single women I met there had been molested as a child (like me), been raped (like me) and choose prostitution for survival (like me).  We were all just women broken.  Needing love and support. God had an angel there waiting to reach out and help me. There was this wonderful family there, a mom and her two kids. They came every week to feed us lunch. The meals were incredible. You felt fed with love at the end of each meal. I began asking them questions about different things; cooking, music, art. I discovered that they attend my church. Wow, what are the chances of that? This is when I started to see God’s love for me and he uses everything in your life to bring you back to him and his love. I started going to church again. But this time I started to listen, not just hear. This time was different. This time I heard God answering. Not long after, that man…well he went to prison and within a couple of weeks, I stopped going on “calls”. I started to understand what I was learning in church, and believe it. That amazing mom that once fed me on Fridays..well her name is Amanda, and she began feeding me with God’s word. I became Amanda’s disciple, which was all part of God’s plan for me. I began to grow through Christ and suddenly life looked so different. And the day came when I just trusted the Lord for everything! No more worries. No more stress.  Just grace and mercy and LOVE.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have struggles, big ones even. But now I trust God to see me through them all. God has never lied to me, never let me down and most important…God has NEVER left my side.

I completed my sentence with the courts, but still am very active with Veronica’s Voice, I have a new job in which I get to help young adults with mental illness learn to live independently, I have been part of a documentary on prostitution, I was asked to speak on behalf Veronica’s Voice at a charity function. I have so many blessings in my life that it would take less time to count to stars than my blessings. I have a wonderful relationship with Christ, and I have devoted my life to do His will. God is awesome! Amen.

Over the past year, I have seen Wendy make the most God honoring choices, difficult choices. Her spiritual growth has in turn caused a greater passion and love for God in my own life. While I was supposed to be the mentor in the relationship, Wendy taught me time and time again about total reliance and faith in God’s providence. And she has been so patient, waiting on God’s timing.

Wendy felt very pulled to go on this trip to Amsterdam. When she asked me to go with her, she was confident that God would provide the money. I have no doubt she is right, and no doubt that this trip to Amsterdam is God calling her further into service for him.

The reality of Wendy’s financial state is not bright. She is now working two jobs to not only pay for the trip, but also to continue to stay above water with her daily living expenses. As one can imagine, a woman with a court record does not get paid a large salary. And she recently experienced vandalism to her car costing more financial pressure.

In an effort to help Wendy raise her funds, I have set up a chip in site for those who would like to contribute. All the money contributed will be sent to the church to be applied to her trip costs.

One very exciting side note for the both of us is that we will have the opportunity to work alongside some people in Amsterdam that minister to women caught in the life of prostitution. What a thrilling opportunity to carry on hope with Wendy’s own life story.

amanda ∞

Enslaved

Today’s lunch menu for VERONICA’s Voice included:

Corned Beef, Cabbage and Potatoes
Homeade Rye Bread
Green Clover-shaped Spritz Cookies

I was also going to serve fresh apple slices, but left the apples at home. Oops.

The smell of the corned beef still lingers in our home. Delicious and comfortable.

As a continuation from my thoughts on slavery yesterday, I wanted to delve into the other side of slavery. Who is the slave owner of a woman enslaved in the life of prostitution? One easy answer would be the pimp, the one with ultimate control of the prostitute. Or how about the john, the one demanding the service? This is a supply and demand society. If there were no demand for slavery, there would be no position for the slave owner. Or how about the media that glamorizes seduction and immediate satisfaction of desires? Or are drug and alcohol addictions to blame? Or how about poor parenting?

I don’t think the answer is clear cut. While there are specific people in particular that a have made prostitution their livelihood, the society as whole is responsible for the perpetuation of this profession, or rather slavery. The depravity of mankind is responsible. We all are the slave owners.

A natural response to this thought is, “I can’t be a part of the problem. I’ve never had anything to do with prostitution or the like.” But then I think of the words of a wise man:

Matthew 5:27-28 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: (28) But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Adultery is not prostitution, but like purchasing the services of a prostitute, it is the fulfilling of carnal lusts. Jesus always go directly to the heart of the matter, the condition of our hearts. I truly believe that until we humble our hearts and serve our fellow man instead of serving our own lusts and desires that we will always have the condition of slavery. Greed rules the market. Simply by abstaining from “the evil” will not resolve the problem. We must step out of our comfort zones and help our neighbor.

Oftentimes reaching out to someone unlike ourselves can seem daunting. Knowing what to say or what to do to help someone “not like us” can feel awkward and uncomfortable. This barrier is within us, but God can free us.

Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

In humility and submission to His Lordship, we can view others through His eyes and find that we are all created by Him and He desires relationship with each of us. In knowing this truth, we can connect with the “neighbor” God puts in our lives, and I promise God will provide opportunity to share His love.

amanda ∞

Les Miserables on prostitution

After watching a musical in December, my daughter and I were compelled to read Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. The size of the book is a bit daunting, but I immediately became lost in the story and felt I knew the characters intimately. Many words have jumped off the page and grabbed my heart, and I’m sure just as many went over my head due to language and cultural barriers.

I’ll be sharing some quotes with you over the days. Each deserves its own commentary. The quote today is from Fantine, Book Fifth, XI:

The holy law of Jesus Christ governs our civilisation, but it does not yet permeate it; it is said that slavery has disappeared from European civilisation. This is a mistake. It still exists: but it weighs now only upon woman, and it is called prostitution.

Knowing personally many women who have experienced the slavery of prostitution, this quote had me nodding. I was thrilled to see that even in 19th century literature prostitution was viewed as slavery by some. Today I feel our society in general has a compassionless attitude towards women enslaved in prostitution. This attitude conveys to these women, “You choose to live this life. You are worthless. Get out of my sight.”

The reality for most of these women has been their lack of choices since childhood. Many have been sexually abused by family members, some offered to others outside of the family. They may have grown up with drugs surrounding them, or ran to the streets to escape the horrors of their homes. On the streets, pimps are quick to pick up these little girls and offer them safety. The pimp becomes the controlling father, forcing the girls to use drugs so that they will be compliant. If they are not compliant, they are beaten. If the girls turn to the law, they will be returned home, or sent to another place of the unknown. These are girls, preteen, early teen. These are not yet women. These girls never get an education. They live a life surrounded by violence and drugs. They do not know love, except by the feelings they have when they have children. But the children get taken away.

As these girls grow up, some become streetwise enough to escape. They run to another city and try to make it on their own. Without an education and skills to become self sufficient, these young women end up doing what they know best for money to eat, to live. They are surviving; and fall back into the life, just another city and a new pimp.

These young women grow up. Their value as a commodity reduces as they age. They are no longer hidden from view by their pimps, but are put to the street to hock their wares. These women that society views as “prostitutes” have already lived a life of horror. They did not one day decide to sell their body on the street for some extra cash. They have been discarded there without seeing other alternatives. They truly are enslaved.

This story is not true of all women enslaved in prostitution. For some it is much more horrific, children being groomed to enter life as a commodity. For some it is purely desperation, survival. But in all cases, it is slavery.

There is much media attention on international prostitution rings, children being bought and sold. These stories, these children do affect our lives. My heart breaks for them, but let us not overlook what is happening in our own cities to our local girls. They no more chose prostitution than did these international children.

I think it is easier for us to help the international problem because we can send money and pray and feel like we have helped. Helping locally can be a bit more sticky. These are people that live all around us. If you live in a city and think there is not prostitution happening near your neighborhood, statistics show that largest volume of prostitution occurs in the wealthiest parts of the city. The largest volume of prostitution is invisible to the untrained eye.

Statistics

  • There are approximately 1 million prostituted women in North America, or 1% of women in North America are involved in prostitution.1
  • An estimated 600,000 children under 18 are involved in prostitution or pornography.2
  • 12 is the average age of entry into pornography and prostitution.3
  • As many as 2.8 million children live on the streets. 1 out of every three will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.4
  • A national study shows that 75% of all women used in prostitution were victims of incest and/or physical abuse as children.5
  • Most of those involved in prostitution ran away from home at an early age to escape their abuse…then turn to prostitution as a way of survival.6
  • Most prostitutes became drug or alcohol addicted on the streets and became more trapped in prostitution to earn money to support their habits.7
  • Up to 90% of prostitutes are under the control of a pimp.8
  • Average arrest, court, and incarceration costs amounted to nearly $2,000 per arrest in 1987. Cities spend an average of $7.5 million on prostitution control each year, ranging from $1 million (Memphis) to $23 million (New York).9
  • A high percentage of prostituted women have considered suicide.10
  • Every year a prostituted woman is raped 19 times, kidnapped 10 times, and beaten repeatedly. 11
  • Prostituted women getting out of jail have no resources, they feel their only choice is to return to a life they know or where they are accepted.12
  • In 1998, the United States was the world’s largest consumer of child pornography.13
  • Trafficking in women plagues the United States as much as it does underdeveloped nations. Organized prostitution networks have migrated from metropolitan areas to small cities and suburbs.14
  • Girls involved in prostitution are increasingly getting younger, dropping from 14, to 13 and 12 years of age. Child prostitution in the United States began to escalate in the late 1980’s after new laws made it more difficult for officials to detain runaway children.15
  • Females in prostitution have a mortality rate 40 times higher than the national average.16
  • The demand for prostituted children is increasing, as men feel safer from AIDS with younger girls. 75 to 95% of all prostitutes were sexually abused as children. Many prostitutes are high school dropouts, come from poor and abusive homes, move from place to place and are alcoholics or drug addicts.17
  • 14 years is the average age of entry into prostitution for boys, 25 years of age is the average age that men leave prostitution. Male prostitutes usually do not have pimps.18
  • Over the last decade the street price for oral sex has dropped from $20-$30 to $2-$3. There are an estimated 500 male prostitutes in Philadelphia. (Police and anonymous prostitutes, Alfred Lubrano, “Eleven o’clock is feeding time in Center City,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 26 May 1998)19
  • Pimps have strong ownership rights over the women and girls they control. Girls who belong to one pimp are not permitted to even look at another.20
  • Women who become street prostitutes do so because of a drug problem, or because the streets are a less violent home than where they come from. “They turn to drugs to make life tolerable.”21
  • The process of recovery for a woman leaving prostitution takes two years of very supportive intervention. Women who are trying to leave the sex industry have the same needs that traditionally battered women have. Many are fleeing with the clothes on their backs with no money and no place to go. This is compounded by the isolation known to all battered women and the stigma that is unique to prostitutes.22
  • Pimps have a strong emotional hold over young women they sexually exploit, which makes it difficult to build a legal case against them. A 17-year-old who was sold by a pimp on the street, refused to testify against him and visits him in prison. Even teenagers covered with bruises and cigarette burns remain loyal to pimps. A typical pimp has six girls and refers to them as “family.” The girls are instructed to call the pimp “Daddy.” Each girl earns approximately $500 per night for the pimp. Although selling a child for sex is a felony that carries a maximum jail term of 15 years, that sentence is never imposed.23
  • Women in prostitution in Arizona are routinely subjected to repeated beatings from their pimp, and have likely been coerced into pornography, topless dancing and/or prostitution in order to support him or his drug habit.24
  • Every woman who has been in the Dignity House jail program stated she has been raped, robbed, kicked and beaten with fists, knives, guns, coat hangers, baseball bats, and boards – either by a trick or her pimp. Each girl knew someone who had been murdered while working in prostitution.25
  • Almost all of 30 prostitutes (interviewed for a story) said that she has been physically and verbally abused by her pimp. More than half the women said that their pimps got them hooked on drugs. And all of them said that their pimps order them to commit other crimes.26
  • The police in Phoenix, Arizona are not trained to work with women used in prostitution. Just as with abused women, police assume women “must like it” to stay. Some police officers are abusers themselves, or at least side with the abusers. When a prostituted woman is treated like a criminal, she become further isolated.27

These statistics were taken from VERONICA’s Voice website. For the statistics sources, go here.

How can you help locally?

  • Seek out your local organization. My local organization is VERONICA’s Voice. If you cannot find an organization in your area, contact VERONICA’s Voice. They may be able to connect you.
  • Once you have found that local organization, find out how you can help. Often times they need volunteers, or donated items, or money.
  • Pray fervently.
  • Stop supporting pornography in any way. (I’m hoping this does not apply to most readers.) The sex industry is all related, and it is all based on money and greed and people as a commodity.

amanda ∞