Beauty From Ashes Videos


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Complexities of Acquiring a ‘Normal’ Job for Survivors of Commercialized Sexual Exploitation

The following questions were asked to our Co-Founder & over-comer, Julie Shematz, by reporter Youngbee Dale of the Norfolk Human Rights Examiner. It's worth noting that in Julie's initial written response to Youngbee was the following statement: "'s complex, as is each case individually and collectively the topic of sex trafficking and commercialized sexual exploitation. I could actually go into other factors that hinder their ability to transition into having a 'normal' job, but I'll leave it at this for now."

"Why [do] women who worked in sex industry tend to go back to the industry despite the exploitation?

Why can't they make a living out of waitressing or working at Walmart or something?" QUOTE

I believe, based upon my experience of being a woman that kept going back, even after acquiring a college degree, and of working with survivors of commercialized sexual exploitation, that a number of factors or influences pull them back into the exploitation.

One of them is the quick money, but most certainly one of the biggest challenges in reconditioning a survivor is restoring their dignity and teaching them self discipline. Most are accustomed to being told what to do or alternately, working very little to make the money they need to survive. Making healthy decisions and exercising self discipline is a huge hurdle, yet necessary for even a simple 40 hour a week job at Walmart or waitressing. Not to mention that working a 40 hour week to earn what one previously could make in an hour or two is a tough transition.

Wounding from trauma, both physical and emotional, and trauma bonding with their perpetrators/exploiters also contributes to the revolving door of sex workers, not to mention their need for affirmation and attention; although it’s unhealthy, many times it’s the only kind of affirmation they have received. When not provided with a consistently, unconditionally loving community/family/support system, they tend to return to what’s familiar, missing the only ‘family’ they consider themselves to have.

Victims and survivors are simply not stable individuals due to the fact that they have been severely wounded, abused, used and discarded often by the very individuals that were to provide them with love and protection. They do not trust anyone because they have been lied to, taken advantage of and exploited for so long. One of the first goals as a care provider is to establish trust and get them stabilized, both of which are more easily said than done.

Another factor, especially with international victims, is a lack of education (although it’s very common with domestic victims as well). Many times, their educational level is way behind their age and especially with minors, that produces the challenges of schooling them. We have had to register survivors in private schools and basically home school them because they would not attend public schools due the fact that, although body-wise they were an adult woman, not to mention street wise, but scholastically they had not completed kindergarten. We had a particular case in which the survivor consistently was expelled from school for her unmanageable behavior and inappropriate language. When someone is not disciplined, they will not be able to complete school at any level. Even completing a GED requires self discipline and in the USA, it’s needed to acquire even a basic minimum wage paying job.

You must also take into account that 80-90% of adult sex workers were victims of child sexual exploitation, which commonly results in psychological and mental complexities. Many of the victims/survivors are diagnosed with dissociative disorder, aka multiple personalities and/or borderline personality disorder, in addition to the typical diagnoses of bi-polar and ADD. Most cannot afford the mental health care they desperately need and their ability to make healthy decisions is often impaired.

Because of the deep and very painful events connected to the inner lies they believe to be true [sadly many times reinforced by society] (ie. I am not good. I’m a whore. I’m worth nothing. I am unlovable. I am only good for sex. I can’t do anything right. Nothing I do is good enough. I am dirty. I can’t trust anyone., etc.) that have been embedded into their souls, they tend to get emotionally triggered very easily and it’s natural for them to go back to what is familiar instead of committing to the long and often very painful journey of healing and restoration. We’ve seen over and over survivors placed into safe homes that they refer to as being ‘too normal’ and once they begin the journey of healing (uncorking the packed away pain,) they can’t handle it and run away, returning again to what they have known.

Additionally, you have to factor in denial for those that return. Denial that they can make a living working at Walmart or waitressing, that what they are doing is exploitation and not good for them, that they need help, etc. There are also drug addictions and until the root of the addiction is completely removed, like a weed, it will grow back & pull the victim/survivor back to self medicating the pain. A job at Walmart or waitressing cannot typically pay the cost of a drug addiction.

Consequently, it comes back to the initial goal of care providers and victims advocates: to restore dignity and establish trust. It’s not a simple process, it’s actually very complex, often extremely ugly and much easier said than done. However, until a healthy self esteem is established and they learn to trust, they most likely will not be able to maintain a ‘normal’ job. The need for specialized care of these victims/survivors is obvious. It’s not a quick fix and will require years and years of restoration. Many times it’s taken years to get them where they are mentally and emotionally and most likely will take just as many, if not more, to undo all the harm that has been done to them. Until that healing process is complete, justice has not truly been rendered to them as victims.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that even when they are able to acquire 'normal' jobs often times they don't hold them down for very long due to their mental & emotional instability, lack of self discipline and/or inability to establish and maintain healthy relationships. It's very common to see them go from job to job, church to church, even community to community that will embrace them, if they don’t isolate themselves. Sadly some frequently take advantage of caring folks (ie. church groups, shelters, individuals, etc.) and often end up exploiting the very individuals that are trying to help them by manipulating, using, hustling and/or stealing from them. Many times there is a destructive lifestyle cycle that desperately needs to be broken, yet the survivor is not willing to commit to the process it will take to break this. More often than not, they will seek out people that will enable them versus those that will legitimately assist them in what needs to be changed other than just a job or profession. Because their pain and inner healing never takes place, returning to the sex industry seems easier to them than facing their own stuff and committing to the journey of healing and change. Even for the ones that persevere in not returning to the sex industry, due to depth of their wounds, you can imagine how their unhealthy choices effect their self esteem. Consequently, we're back to their basic need of dignity being restored, yet the decisions they frequently make prohibit and/or significantly hinder this from happening. It’s like a vicious cycle they need to desperately break out of but often find themselves trapped in it.

Like I said, initially, it’s complicated. From my perspective as an over-comer of commercialized sexual exploitation and trafficking, and a care provider/victim’s advocate, there are two common factors regarding human trafficking: complexity and injustice. Regardless of the diverse variables that pull the survivors back into the exploitation, they deserve the basic human right and opportunity(s) to be restored.

Julie Shematz
CEO, Beauty From Ashes

Norfolk Human Rights Examiner Story: Safe Housing Is More Than a Roof Over the Head of Sex Trafficking/Industry Survivors

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you shared this. It's so important for those who are called to minister to women (and men) who are caught up in the sex and adult entertainment industries, and to "rescue those being led away to death (and) hold back those staggering to slaughter" (Pr. 24:11), to know the realities of what they're doing and who they're dealing with, and be able to count the cost.

    As much as we'd like to believe that we'll meet with success and gratitude, and all will be well at the end of the day, we really have to face the fact that those who are called to do Messiah's work must expect to face the same rejection, disapointment, frustratrion, impugning of motives, sometimes even back-stabbing and betrayal, that He did. Sheep often run away, and sometimes they bite.

    The good news is that He has already taken all our pain, rejection, disappointment and bitterness on the Cross with Him, and it's no longer we who live, but He who lives in us. As long as the life we live in the body is by faith in the Son of God who loves us and gave Himself for us, we may not be totally happy at the end of the day, we may even be hard pressed and perplexed, but we won't be crushed or in despair. (2 Cor. 8)

    God bless and keep up the great work!!!!