A friend from my church started an organization dedicated to helping sexually trafficked women and children escape from forced sex work. Susan hatched this idea almost two years ago, but honestly up until yesterday I had my doubts about whether anything would ever come of it. But yesterday GenerateHope opened the doors to it’s first safe house here in San Diego, and two women moved in. I am utterly amazed and really stoked. Today Susan was interviewed on local public radio station KPBS.
In our North Park neighborhood prostitution is common as the day is long. The intensity on our corner fluctuates, I guess, as vice herds it east and west along El Cajon Blvd. But Mellie and I have had multiple run-ins, from flushing johns off our street, to finding out a woman had been working in the vacant apartment below us, to intervening when a girl was being bullied by her pimp. Parked in the alley, Mellie accidentally left her car unlocked one night and the next day we found, um, “evidence” in the front seat. My job that day was to get the interior detailed. Walking home late one night I passed a girl sobbing on the sidewalk. I stopped to help her and we ended up talking about her life over tacos at Taco Bell. She had been hassled by the cops and was afraid of getting arrested again. Nothing but spike heels, so I drove her the 15 blocks back to her place in City Heights. Her night was a bust so I gave her $20 as she got out of my car. What do you think that looked like to anyone watching? When I got home and crawled into bed I whispered to half-asleep Mellie, “Sorry I’m late, I was with a prostitute. G’night.”
Some girls are doing it by choice, obviously. But in my limited experience it seems like things get murky pretty quickly. The girl who lost her john when I told him I was calling the cops cussed me out and asked if I was going to come over and feed her 3 kids that night. The girl I met sobbing on the street was a freelancer, but had been beat up several times and was looking for a pimp that could protect her. On the phone to SDPD to report a dude I had just watched drop off one girl and who was now picking up another in my driveway, I was told that the police could only arrest the guy if an officer witnessed him exchanging money for sex, but if I gave a description of the girl they would send an officer right away to pick her up. What? That seems pretty messed up to me. Seems like there are a lot of factors that might push a woman into a bad situation, or contribute to making a bad situation worse.
Susan has some pretty crazy stats on the numbers of girls—some as young as 13, 14—who are coerced to hook or escort. They are actually enslaved—unable to leave their pimps either through force or intimidation. San Diego is one of the top US cities for sexual slavery. WTF. This is some messed up stuff. Check out the interview above and support GenerateHope if you can—donations are tax deductible.