Written by: Taffi Dollar
Article source: Supplied 

Back in 2006, I had a life-changing epiphany. Since I have a background in mental health and human services, I had a deep realization that I could use that experience to connect with, assist, and minister to women trapped in prostitution and the adult entertainment industry.

To me, this work felt incredibly important. Because while some women working in the sex industry willing choose to enter it, for many more, they do so against their will; the International Labor Organization estimates that more than 4.8 million people are prisoners of sexual exploitation today.

The stats speak for themselves. So, I set out to help.

I started by researching what women in the sex industry needed most. Then, alongside several other women in my church — some of whom were former exotic dancers — I began venturing into strip clubs and common prostitution spots around Atlanta to meet with women, give them condoms, and talk to them openly about safe sex in hopes of diving into a deeper discussion about their futures. As it turned out, what most of the women I spoke with desired most was education, reassurance, and someone to tell them they could live whatever kind of life they wanted.

From there, if leaving the sex industry was something they wanted to do, I’d share resources offered by my church, World Changers, including seminars, classes, and job fairs. Then, I’d help them envision another life — one better and safer than the one which they were currently living.

The experience was — and continues to be — nothing short of revelatory. It’s taught me so much about what it means to be human, and how alike all of us truly are, both the privileged and the disenfranchised. 

At the end of the day, we all come from the same place.

Many of the women who’ve previously worked in or are currently working in the sex industry face challenges the rest of us can hardly fathom. Some are working to break addictions. Many are victims of sex trafficking. Some grew up in poverty. Some simply can’t envision a different life for themselves on account of fear, past abuse, or a lack of education.

But as I’ve learned by spending time with women in the sex industry, while many face outsized hardship, we all share the same core concerns, hopes, and dreams. We all want the best for our children.

We all want the best for ourselves.

This became solidified for me after a conversation I once had with Laura Bush. We discussed our children, and the concerns she shared with me were exactly the same anxieties that the women working in those Atlanta clubs had. They were the same worries I harbored. We all wanted, above all, to do the same thing: to provide a better future for our kids.

All of us want to support and make sacrifices for our families.

This understanding — that we all come from the same place — changed the way I went about my work.

It’s crucial we realize that we’re all much more alike than we are different. The female entrepreneur struggling to build her business makes similar sacrifices — and for the same reasons — as the exotic dancer who spends hours on stage each night.

We’re all trying to survive and do right by our loved ones.

Those of us in a position to help others, then, need to approach our work with this understanding: that we’re all, in a sense, one family. The work of ministry, after all, starts with a shared appreciation for how much we all have in common.

As a society, then, we all need to commit to helping these women, especially if they’ve been trafficked.

It’s precisely because of how similar we all are that this fight to elevate women all over the world and to end sex trafficking for good is a fight everyone must fight. 

No, you don’t need to spend your weekends in the back rooms of strip clubs or on street corners. But if you see a woman who is being held against her will, or if someone in your neighborhood seems to be holding young women in their house, pay attention and call the authorities or the human tracking hotline: 1–888–373–7888.

Sex trafficking can happen anywhere, any time.

At the end of the day, spending time with, talking with, and connecting with women working in this corner of the world has opened my eyes in a way I’d never imagined possible.

It’s opened my eyes to the plight of others; it’s opened my eyes to the truly blinding nature of privilege, and it’s opened my eyes to the power of thinking empathetically.

The truth is, only through empathy — by striving to live empathetically — can we truly understand how to most effectively help others in need.

To learn more about our work helping women in the sex industry through Prestige, visit our site here.

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