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It Doesn’t Take a Third Party

In no form of gender-based violence other than prostitution do we weigh the veracity of the victimization of a person on whether or not there is a third party. This third party litmus test has traditionally been used to determine my right to services, governmental funding, and even to determine if I deserve justice. Due to this I, as a survivor of prostitution, feel guilt and shame rather than understanding and support.

Many organizations have this narrow view of victimization, making it almost impossible to prove that my victimization occurred because my boyfriend did not fit the narrow trafficker definition. My survivorship is called into question. To these organizations I must have been trafficked to have been harmed by prostitution and that is simply not the case. You don’t have to be trafficked to be harmed by prostitution.

Because I made my choice to call that adult help wanted ad, they question my victimization. Because I already looked at sex as an act where women’s bodies were simply receptacles for masturbation, they question my victimization. And because my boyfriend didn’t look like a pimp, didn’t sound like a pimp, and didn’t act the way they think a pimp acts, then I must have chosen it and therefore it’s my own fault if anything bad happened to me. Because he didn’t fit into the perfect trafficker box, I don’t fit into the perfect victim box. So sorry to disappoint anyone but I didn’t need his presence to be harmed by prostitution.

What other form of gender-based violence would we say this to? That it is the third party that dictates whether or not a person was victimized? If a rape victim were to say a man raped her, no one would question if there was another man in the room holding her down. No one would say that because there was no “coercive force” by a third party that she must not be a victim.

These organizations see me as a bitter ex-prostitute and nothing more. The do not see me as a victim of rape, sexual abuse, and physical abuse by dozens and dozens of men. It is easier to imagine a woman not choosing rape rather than a woman not choosing prostitution. It is convenient for these organizations to ignore my voice. More accurately, I believe, this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of domestic sex trafficking. No other population is made to feel as guilty as survivors of prostitution are made to feel when we seek help. If we cannot check that narrow box that says “trafficked” then we deserved what we got.

My long lasting victimization is not real to these organizations. They do not see the after-effects of being within prostitution that I see in my life now and will see for the rest of my life. Sexual dysfunction, std’s, inability to bear children, persistent nightmares, and broken intimate relationships to name a few. I want to call out these organizations pushing for decriminalization policy. Who are they to judge my victimization solely based on an outside compelling force? Is being bought and raped by buyers not enough for them?

In requiring this third party presence, these organizations are denying too many women and girls services they desperately need. They are putting the burden of proof on the victim and therefore creating just another barrier to obtaining services. In doing this, these organizations are denying that my victimization was possible. I will tell you here and now, my victimization was very real and until these organizations see this they are doing a gross disservice to those trapped within prostitution’s confines.


  1. Thank you so much for putting this into words Alisa. It resonates with me deeply. Solidarity and thank you for your heartbreaking eloquence.

  2. So much I could add to this. All I will say is this: There is no difference between being trafficked and “willingly choosing” to enter prostitution 99% of the time. None. The pro-decriminalization camp (read: those who want to decriminalize the pimps/traffickers, brothel owners and the rape ticket buyers aka ‘johns’) and its cadre of NGO’s (i.e. Coyote, Sex Workers Anonymous, etc.) has failed miserably to help a single trafficked woman/girl to be able to exit prostitution and rebuild her life. And we all know why that is. Cui bono? (“Who is benefiting?” or “Whom does the grail serve?”)

    The pro-legalization/decriminalization camp has a vested interest in this $32 billion/yr ‘industry’ and men inherited privileges paid for in full several thousand times over with women’s oppression. And they will go to great lengths to uphold and enforce that oppression in order to maintain their own privileges – and they have all the money to be able to do it.

    Case in point is that disgusting show on STARZ, “The Girlfriend Experience”, starring Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, Riley Keough, as the “empowered” law school student by day/escort by night. While interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel live, Keough said that she “liked the role because of the show’s producers balanced view towards sex work” and that doing sex scenes w/ strangers or other actors was “no different than doing a dinner scene” – immediately following with the statement that she will NOT show her own very “progressive” parents those racy sex scenes.

    If she really feels that it’s no different than doing a dinner scene, why NOT show the full episodes to her very open-minded progressive parents? What’s the big deal, right? If being splayed naked and penetrated by a bunch of strange men is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing different than “doing a dinner scene”, than what’s the problem with letting her parents watch? Unless if we can infer that it’s only “nothing different than a dinner scene” for someone else’s daughter.

    The difference between Riley Keough and 99% of the real women in prostitution is that Riley gets to leave at the end of the set. She gets to exit that show and does not need any exit programs to help her so she can do it. Riley Keough will never have to beg for (often non-forthcoming) help w/ medical and dental care, transitional housing, education, skills training, and extra support in job placement – unlike the real McCoys.

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