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My story is that of an unfortunate statistic. I was physically, sexually, and emotionally tortured by my stepfather from the age of four until disclosing at age 10. He received an eighteen month sentence for six years of my torture. My mother, crippled with guilt, was unable to deal with the angry child I had become so I became a part of the system. I entered foster homes while she was hospitalized with a nervous breakdown; and later on, I went into group homes as my behavior grew out of control.

I was called a survivor as often as I was referred to as a victim. I did not identify with either of these labels, nor did I even know what they meant. As I grew to preteen years, I felt understood by no one. While briefly residing with my mother, I ran away from home and was violently raped while very drunk. Upon arrival at the hospital, my mother’s enraged reaction was to tell me that I put myself in the situation and she could no longer protect me.

I turned my first trick by age thirteen. Having learned at an early age that sexuality would get me affection and power... I also learned that I could earn money with something that was stolen from me my entire life, and this seemed like a sensible choice to a kid - my choice. After running away yet again, I spent the night in a bank machine shelter and had to resort to stealing pop-tarts because I hadn’t eaten in two days. Later that day I hitch-hiked to Toronto and by the following sunrise I was drinking champagne with a sixty+ year old trick.

It wasn’t too long after this; I met my first pimp and was introduced to “The Game” aspect of the sex trade. Before meeting my pimp and with being on my own, prostitution was more about misguided power over my sexuality and a way to survive day to day, however, it soon became a very high paying serious business as a high class, high-track street prostitute. I worked in an area known for its organized crime and pimp abuse; there were rules that had to be followed and enforced or there were consequences. I got into the sex trade at a time when it was more confined to isolated areas outside, and hidden behind closed doors, it certainly wasn’t as socially accepted as it’s become today… I didn’t blend with society and I stood out.

In my ten year stint as a prostitute, I worked every aspect of the sex trade; I was an exotic dancer, I ran a massage parlor and I had a phone line offering in-call/out-call services. I embraced sex work for all it was worth. The toys I had at the end of the day were my only source of self esteem.

After the birth of my first child, I knew things had to change. I knew I could not allow my children to grow up thinking that this “life” was ok. It took me five years after my first child’s birth before I was emotionally ready to return to school. I cut off all my contacts to protect myself from the temptations of going back; I did this by moving out of the city to a small town. I then surrounded myself with people who supported my new life, and it’s now been 7 years since I’ve successfully exited from the sex trade.

Today, I am an avid speaker whose life experience has compelled me to speak out against the abuse, and the exploitation of children and youth in the fight for their protection. As well, I now have a career in long term health care, and I have plans to return to college and complete my nursing degree.

I have faced obstacles, much abuse, and I have bettered myself; it is possible to survive. To call a child a “survivor” she must first understand what a survivor means. I can look at the girl whose life story is similar to mine and say I hope one day soon that you too, will fully understand what it means to survive, and without self blame. Together we can survive… learn and grow.

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