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« we need to make sure that we are connected to a movement to end prostitution », a survivor testimony by Cherie Jimenez

« I speak as a survivor and as a member of an international group of survivors working to end prostitution and as the founder and director of an exit program here in Boston, MA USA, a program designed and run by formerly prostituted women that connects women to needed resources and to each other. »

Eva Center - Boston Exit Program - Cherie Jimenez

 

« My “journey through prostitution” lasted almost twenty years. I entered out of economic desperation. Now I could say that I consented into prostitution but the notion of consent relies on the assumption that I had a number of viable options. I started in what some might call the “higher” end of the sex trade in escort services but I ended pimp involved and heroin addicted, becoming involved in both street and escort services; often with a quota imposed and a quota is what we needed to make to return home. So I can say I understand the difficulty in getting out – prostitution is easy to get into but often so complicated to getting. I had to hide from the pimp I left and for most of us when we leave we leave with nothing – often with a criminal record, with no legal work history, poorer than when we went in.

The biggest obstacle for many of us is a safe place to go and heal, access to viable options and the ability to recreate new support systems and meaningful employment. It was ten years ago that I had an opportunity to create a way out for women and we are now finally opening up a needed emergency housing program here in Boston.

But creating exit programs as much as they are needed is not enough, we need to make sure that we are connected to a movement to end prostitution otherwise we will continue to just focus on the needs of individuals reeling from the devastating impact of the systems of prostitution, violence and poverty while we allow this harmful sex trade to continue. We cannot end sex trafficking without ending prostitution.

As a survivor and director of a program I have had the opportunity to meet and listen to hundreds of women that came through our center. I have witnessed the changes that have happened over these decades – the economic and social forces that transformed this from what was a local issue into a hugely profitable global normalized industry. I see every day how our accelerated growing inequality is rendering too many women and girls into being prostituted. We need to end this through a Nordic type legislation that targets the demand. We who were exploited took the blame for prostitution – held the stigma and suffered the violence while buyers kept their entitlement to our bodies. We are now organizing as survivors, as activists, as policy makers to shift the focus on those that purchase and end this practice.

Our programs provide organizational and structural support for women not only to exit out but to organize on their own behalf. In the US we have a large domestic trafficking issue, women from our own communities. Perhaps never before has the struggle to create a viable movement of real radical change been more urgent and more difficult. We cannot end the systems of exploitation in one swift blow but we making cracks in the system, I will continue to make a small crack in the community I live inspired by larger ones such as this conference and the people in this room. As we build this global movement we will crack the whole thing and end this harmful practice. »

 

Cherie Jimenez
EVA Center, Boston MA USA

 

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