The push to leave poverty brings some women into sex work

Jess Richardson – WNN SOAPBOX

One hundred dollar bills
Too many global advocates refuse to look at one of the primary reasons women get caught as sex workers inside the sex industry.  Image: Adam Kuban/Flickr

(WNN) Los Angeles, California, UNITED STATES, NORTH AMERICA: There is little doubt that childhood sexual abuse is a huge problem in the world today. It’s hidden in almost every home and most people have a story to tell. The correlation between a young person being sexually abused, and then being trafficked, is obvious.

The vast majority of people who are sexually abused as children never enter the sex industry. Yet sexual abuse has taken the brunt of the blame for the rise in sex trafficking.

But if sexual abuse was the only factor leading a person to be trafficked the solution would be simple — stop childhood sexual abuse.

Childhood sexual abuse is a primary factor in many ‘life’ situations such as domestic violence, bullying, drug & alcohol addiction, self-harm, homelessness and a host of other issues. It also breaks down the walls of healthy sexuality.

But poverty is the real force that drives a person to seek opportunities in desperation. The U.S. ‘American Dream’ of money, fame and fortune is promoted in every part of our culture today. But it’s nearly unachievable for the vast majority of Americans.

Lack of personal resources leads more people, both young and old, to seek opportunities they would never consider before if their needs were being met. Generational cycles of poverty can hide behind white picket fences as huge debt loads that are not sustainable for the debt-to-income ratio continue to exist.

Changes in the global economy over the last decade first affects those in the middle and lower income classes, leaving many who are left behind to search any way they can for income opportunities. When a person has nothing of value left to sell at a yard sale, as the bills continue to pile-up, selling sex can become a very real option.

This can happen regardless of a persons’ childhood experiences.

Falling into the trap of “something being better than nothing,” our society pitches any opportunity as a good thing for individuals and families stuck in poverty.

To make more money some people choose to enter the sex industry. Others encounter an individual who seeks to profit from their vulnerability.

After the time when I was trafficked, later when I was with ‘my pimp’ as a sex worker, I wore $3,000 custom-made suits; lived in elegant condos; and always had my hair and nails done. Granted what I had to do to live that lifestyle was incredibly difficult. But I was living the ‘high-life’. I made more money in one month than I do annually now.

Those who desire to exit sex work or to leave their trafficker most often experience being placed right back into the heart of poverty, where food donation boxes include leftover cans of food from middle America’s pantry.

Low income housing, shelters and residential programs leave much to be desired. Even with the most beautiful housing, what happens when a sex-worker graduates their exit program? Most of the time they graduate to low-income housing in the ghetto.

The truth is: something is NOT better than nothing.

Many enter the sex industry looking for a better income only to be rescued then placed right back into poverty, adding to the collective problem. The stigma of being a ‘victim of childhood sexual abuse’ leads too many programs to silence the voices of both voluntary sex workers and trafficking survivors alike.

My childhood sexual abuse paved the way for me being trafficked. But it was poverty that kept me in the sex industry long after I escaped my trafficker.

The misconception of childhood sexual abuse being the primary factor ignored the need to know the true primary factor. We must address poverty first, which is unequivocally tied to a lack of community, racism, gender inequality, as well as social and economic class discrimination.


Jes Richardson is a survivor of sex trafficking and a former sex worker, as well as an educator, speaker and blogger. She resides in Los Angeles, California with her husband and six children. To know more about her educational campaigns link HERE.


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