|A Survivor's Story||| Print ||
As a former client of SAGE Project in San Francisco, I cannot express enough how instrumental SAGE was in transforming my life. When I was first introduced to SAGE, I was drug addicted, living on the streets and prostituting myself to survive. Obviously, that lifestyle was very damaging and involved horrific amounts of violence and degradation. I felt completely isolated from society and saw no hope or future for myself. I came into contact with SAGE through the San Francisco County Jail system. Looking back, I can truly say that it was my introduction to SAGE which saved my life.
Due to my involvement in prostitution, all threads of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-respect as a woman were completely destroyed. Prostitution is a lifestyle that forces one to be at the mercy of those who want to use and abuse other human beings. The myth of the loving, fatherly-figure pimp is a complete fabrication, as is the myth of the kind and caring ‘customer.’ There may be a few ‘lonely men’ who would never dream of harming someone, but the majority of people pursuing prostitutes do so specifically for the purpose of being able to physically, psychologically and sexually control someone. That is what prostitution as an institution is based on and the same reason many people compare it with slavery.
When I became involved with SAGE, they helped me to rediscover my worth as a human being. They helped me to hope, dream and plan for a future for myself. They guided me through the process of recovery and learning how to become self-sufficient in a way that did not force me to compromise my values. SAGE taught me how to become empowered, speak my voice and fight for opportunity in life. These opportunities that I speak of included securing a safe place to lay my head at night, participating in employment skill training so I could enter the San Francisco job market, and receiving unconditional caring, support and guidance throughout the entire process. These may sound like qualities that most people already possess, but like the other women and girls who I knew who were involved in prostitution, these never existed for me.
When you look at me today, you could never imagine that I was once sleeping on the streets, meeting up with ‘customers’ behind dumpsters, and doing everything in my power to avoid accepting my reality. I appear as the typical college student who is secure, confident and full of hope and promise for the future. I appear this way because that is who I am. Today I am very confident in my strengths and abilities, very secure in my identity as an empowered woman, and extremely driven to seek out a better future for myself and the community in which I live. These are traits I was taught by SAGE. These are opportunities that should be made available to all who want them.
There are hundreds of women like me in San Francisco. You don’t recognize us because we don’t walk around with a sign saying “I’m a former prostitute.” We have carved out new identities for ourselves. We have learned how to be healthy, happy human beings. We are working hard to make this world a little better for ourselves and the next generation. Please understand how important it is that all SAGE services remain available for others like me. Whether you recognize us or not, we exist. Whether you see it or not, there is true potential there if you encourage it to blossom.