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Sexual Harassment

Dear Amy,

I am a 31 year-old woman and an ex-prostitute/stripper/masseuse. I have also lived on my own since I was 13 years-old. I have always survived off my looks, and, after becoming a topless dancer at the age of 14, I am not sure how to not be seen as a sex object. I quit dancing at age 27 and found myself waitressing and not really able to do anything else while paying my bills. So, at 28 I became an escort in Los Angeles. It seemed to me that men, as long as I can remember, have only wanted sex from me. So I rationalized it to myself by saying, "at least this way I feel like I am getting something from the relationship."

I have been trying to quit over the last 3 months and have been looking for a normal job. I have found this almost impossible to do because either I am not qualified or the man that owns the company (or works there) was a client. Lately every man I know says the same thing to me, "you are so pretty and talented you must not be looking hard enough. But you will still see me as a client though?"

Now it looks like I have no other choice if I want to keep a roof over my head. Unfortunately for me, when I quit working, the man I worked for got very upset and has blacklisted me so I can't work even if I wanted too. He is a very powerful attorney and so were most of my clients. It is a very strange "boys" club and they are all married. They have also made it abundantly clear that they know where I live, that I don't own a car and must walk to the train or bus, and no one would believe me anyhow. I'm sorry to have gone on so long but I don't know what to do.



Dear KP,

I realize how few resources there are for people who are at that middle place. Resources tend to be there for the extreme cases, but not the middle of the road. You're not poor enough to get government resources and you haven't been completely brutalized . Anyway, your note again reminded me of those gaps.

Your note also reminded me of a group that I had just learned about - Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS). It's based in New York City and it's founder, Rachel Lloyd, was a prostitute. She turned her life around and wanted to help others to do the same so she created a program to help sex workers pursue other professions. It's a great model for a program - but like I said above, I think that her focus is women/girls who are poor and turn to prostitution because it's the only way out of their community or to fund their drug problem. Nonetheless, I think you might want to learn more about her program. It's likely to give you some suggestions.

Also, I think there is a way for you to recast your skills to make your resume applicable to jobs that you want to pursue. I always think that temporary agencies - like Manpower - are a good place to start. They give you some experience and expose you to different workplaces, employers. Also, you need to think about what exactly you want to do - do you want to work in advertising? For a law firm? There is so much out there. This is going to make a difference to an employer. They want to make sure that any potential employee is committed to this particular profession. I hope that helps and I'd be happy to make more specific suggestions once you have a better sense of what you want to do next.

Good Luck.



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