This story is difficult to read and difficult to tell… Please say a prayer after you read this in support of the young lady behind my typed lines of life. - Scott Walker
This details my morning with what many simply call a prostitute. For me, I will never look at such a woman who has sex for money the same way again. Never.
We met in a Waffle House outside of the Nashville area on a dreary Saturday morning. I darted inside running in-between the monster raindrops that reminded me of a movie where someone closely loved was laid to rest. You know, one of those mornings you try hard to forget, but they stick with you because of the subject matter at hand. This was my morning to leave me in ruins, as far as thoughts go. I sat quietly for two hours, just listening. I was listening to a story the victim in this case had never told someone in complete detail. Not even counselors, law enforcement officers or judges know the details you are about to be privy to.
Candy Carter with Last Call 4 Grace and I met with a woman who had been sexually abused her entire life. Last Call 4 Grace is a Murfreesboro Organization that seeks to help women and children who are victims of sex trafficking and victims of the sex trade industry. I will not go as far as naming the female we met, but I will place a generic name on her for the purpose of telling "her story." I will call her Jennifer.
A little background on Jennifer (Warning - This is very detailed / graphic):
35-Year old Jennifer has been married three times and has 8-children. One of the children may have been fathered by her very own dad, according to her. She told me that she lost her virginity at the age of 11 by a grown man who was her next door neighbor in West Tennessee. That grown man had children that played with her as a kid. She has been addicted to crack throughout a large part of her life. She specifically said, she does not know if she has ever gotten over "it."
In order to afford crack cocaine, she sold her body for sex. Jennifer could not smoke enough crack to stay high long enough to forget about her past. As she was talking, she cried repeatedly.
The story of Jennifer (Again - This is graphic):
Many times we hear stories about women who are arrested for prostitution in Middle Tennessee. Specifically, the Murfreesboro area. In Rutherford County, prostitution is extremely prevalent. However, we seldom hear about arrests for such an accusation. Jennifer worked as a prostitute in Murfreesboro, but her story started in a middle class neighborhood of West Tennessee. Her story could have easily taken place in Texas, South Carolina, Idaho or Florida. In other words - this is a story that is told all too often.
When Jennifer was a small child, she was involved in dance. She laughed and then cried when talking about her love for dancing and how her mother enrolled her in dance classes. She has a large photo album documenting her dancing that her now deceased mother made for her. The album spans from age two to age fifteen. In fact, her only positive memory of when she was a child lies within the pages of that photo album. Outside the album lives years of torment, hate and sexual abuse.
In between cups of coffee being poured and new customers walking into the restaurant, Jennifer gave us insight into her forbidden past. One of those stories involved prayer at night. On the nights her mom did not tuck her in, her father would take her to bed. Jennifer told us there is one night that she cannot shake out of her memory, no matter how hard she tries.
In tears, Jennifer said there is one event that plays over and over again in her mind. It is like a broken record that keeps repeating line after line. She stated, "I remember a specific incident where my dad came in the room to pray with me and was performing oral sex." She continued the details, but I will spare you as when this allegedly occurred she was a small child. She then stated, "I can't get that out of my head and this has gone on a really long time." Jennifer then reassured us that she is a good person and that she is nice to everyone. She said, "I don't know a person you'd meet that would say anything bad about me." The tears continued as she said, "I think I just really got heavy into drugs because I just didn't want to think about it anymore."
The drugs continued, but a way to pay for her so called illegal medication didn't last long. Eventually, she turned to prostitution to pay for her crack cocaine addiction. She then said in regards to her next move into the sex trade business, "It's a disgusting line of work (long pause) just to get high."
Jennifer started prostituting herself in 2003 to afford her drug habit. She immediately stated, "It's really a cycle that people fall in and I think most of them (talking about prostitutes) were sexually abused as a child." In describing the sex trade business, she said, "That was nothing that I looked forward to doing." She also said, "You can't wash it off," referring to selling her body for sex in dark and dingy motels and apartment complexes. She would charge as little as $20 to please a customer. However, some would give her $50. But again, she could not wash off, smoke off the pain.
As Jennifer continued to talk about prostitution, she continued to cry on and off. Others in the restaurant knew something good was happening as our attention was focused solely on her. It was obvious, this was a positive step for her. The talk continued and she spoke of the "disgusting" men she slept with and talked about the variety of sexually transmitted diseases that exist in small towns like Murfreesboro and large cities like Nashville.
The torment did not stop as Jennifer aged. At one point when Jennifer was in her late twenties, she told us her father called her from West Tennessee and informed her that he had just cut her daughters legs off. He told her he then placed the legs in a box, stopped the bleeding so that the child would survive, but without legs. Jennifer had no way of knowing if this was true, because her daughter was adopted and she did not know who the adopted family was. That daughter was, according to Jennifer, fathered by her own dad in 2007. The same dad who now randomly calls her to say things like he had just cut his / her daughters' legs off.
Jennifer has met with multiple counselors and she described her conversations as repetitive. She said you tell your story to one person and then they suggest you talk to someone else. You then tell your story again and then the state sends you to someone else, so you tell it again. She said by the end of the day the story has gone through your head so many times you just want to get high again to forget. Shortly after you take that next smoke of crack, you fall back into the cycle of needing money to get high - - again. That is when the cycle starts over. In other words, proper counseling for someone who has been sexually abused is tough and even tougher when drugs or alcohol are involved. Those problems are compounded when you add into that a story of rape, stories of prostitution and more.
When asked what should be done to help other women who suffered as she did and work in the prostitution trade, she told us signs should be placed in front of every low class motel that give women a phone number to call for help. She also told us that she wished that more help was available for those who work in the escort business, suggesting that most of the women in that line of work are victims of horrid backgrounds involving sexual abuse. They turn to drugs to suppress thoughts and memories. Those memories of abuse never fade away.
One goal that Jennifer hopes to accomplish before she dies is a similar goal of Last Call 4 Grace in Murfreesboro. That goal is to build a halfway home for those who are victims of sexual abuse. She told us that no such place exists in our area. That halfway home, or apartment as she described it, would serve as a safe escape for any woman who has been prostituted.
I could continue writing page after page detailing Jennifer's life, but I won't. I will close with this… Jennifer agreed to allow me the privilege of taking her photo to show you her pain. This interview took a lot out of her, so please show her support. We are not mentioning her name because she does look different when compared to the days of when she was a prostitute and a crack addict.
Today - she is clean. After telling her story, she can now live.
For women who read this and need help in deciding where to turn for help, you can start with a phone call to Last Call 4 Grace.