I saw them. I saw so many girls. Some boys too. I saw them at all ages and stages. I saw the under 21s. I saw the over 60s. I saw the ones who didn’t speak English. I saw the ones who were desirable to groups of people due to their size and even disability.
At one time they were children who didn’t have a family to fight for them and ended up in the sex industry. And dare I say, I saw my children in the future, except for the grace of God. Statistically, this is what the future would hold for children like yours and mine if they had stayed in the system and were only known as blurred out faces.
Most Americans who are victims of sex trafficking come from our foster care system. It’s a system that leaves vulnerable children to be preyed upon by pimps. Internationally it happens too. Orphans are prime targets to be trafficked. They have no one. No skills. No one to fight for them. Children have been known to vanish from orphanages. It’s easy for them to go unnoticed when there are no records. It’s as if they never existed.
This is who I saw at the clubs, porn convention and legalized brothels of Nevada.
I’m not saying all these women were trafficked. But 20% of the clients we served were. And that’s just the ones we knew about. Even if this was a path they chose of their own free will, not one child wakes up one day and says, “I want to become a sex worker when I grow up.” For various reasons, they have all been desensitized to this life.
The first time I visited a brothel, I scratched my head in terrified and horrified disbelief. What is a girl like me doing here? Then, what is a girl like that doing here? But the more I visited, the more I looked forward to it. What I found is that they really were very much like me. They were women. Moms. Some had custody. Some didn’t. Some of them were wives. We shared stories about our kids. There’s always a story to share there. And I felt like I was getting a break from my daily trauma momma life, yet still engaged with the population my heart ached for.
This organization I volunteered with exists solely to give value to these women. That’s it. We didn’t preach to them. We didn’t encourage them to get out. But we did let them know if they needed a dentist, a doctor, counseling or anything else, we could help get them those services. Regardless of what the world tells them, these women have value. We took our usual cupcakes, makeup and hair supplies and helped them get ready for their day.
One day, there was a lot of whispering and gathering of the girls as they anxiously talked with the social worker. Another worker’s boyfriend beat her up badly. And since she was beat up, she couldn’t work. Since she couldn’t work, she couldn’t stay there. She had no where to go. So she went back to stay at her boyfriend’s place. They knew she was in danger. They asked us to help. Several attempts were made to reach her, but she never returned the calls.
A couple months passed and I received a text. She died and it was being investigated as a homicide. I was shocked. I knew of many families with tragic circumstances surrounding the loss of their loved ones. But none because of murder.
So we made another trip, but this time, it was to give honor and value in a different way. We took pink balloons and our usual cupcakes and attended the memorial service for a precious life cut short. They shared stories, displayed pictures of her and planted a tree on the brothel property in her memory. There were 12 people who attended the funeral. The smallest funeral I’ve ever been to. The saddest funeral I’ve ever been to. No family. Only workers and other associates of the brothel.
At the end, one of the girls walked up to sing a song. I remember thinking, “I wonder what song she will sing?” I was thinking something secular or even unusual. And then these words rolled out of her mouth:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
And then the tears came. To me. It was the most beautiful version of that song I have ever heard. And not because she had a professionally trained musician’s voice. It was the song.
We’ve all heard the song. But you’ve never heard that song until you’ve heard a sex worker sing it at a sex worker’s funeral.
In that moment, under the big Nevada sky with the snowcapped mountains in the background, I was standing in an unlikely match, and yet here we were, all the same. We weren’t there to provide makeup or hair services or resources. We were just a group of people, all in need of grace. What started as the saddest funeral I have ever been to, ended up being the most beautiful funeral I have ever been to and one of the most memorable moments in my life.
We are ALL in need of grace. We are all considered wretched at one time or another in our lives. We have all been lost at some point in our journey. We all have been blind and can’t see through our circumstances. We all want this grace that is sweet, this grace that saves, this grace that finds us, this grace that makes us see. We All need that kind of grace.
So let’s continue to fight this fight and love big. Not as saviors. But as those who have received grace and now want to give grace.
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