Drugs, violence part of 'the life'
By Katherine Lymn
Forum News Service
Editors Note: This is the life of Jenny Gaines. Lured into sex trafficking at age 14, she spent 28 years in a life of prostitution. Throughout the past six months, Forum News Service has spent time getting to know Jenny. This is her story.
The seed for prostitution was planted before Jenny Gaines met “Alexander,” her first pimp, at an arcade in downtown Minneapolis.
But after him, she was truly stuck.
Alexander, whose middle name is used for safety reasons, started brainwashing Jenny, programming her to think she was made to do prostitution.
“When you’re selling your body, you’re selling yourself, your value, your morals,” she reflects. “You’re putting that to the side and letting somebody use you.”
After she helped police lock up Alexander, she found herself beaten and robbed in a Kmart parking lot. One of his friends was punishing her for snitching.
So she went back to the arcade where she had met Alexander and looked for reassurance, protection, love. She found drugs and another pimp.
Over 28 years in prostitution, Jenny would go to treatment 13 times. But for the most part, therapists and doctors just didn’t understand: She couldn’t be in prostitution and be sober.
Whether it was Bacardi-Cokes or street drugs, Jenny numbed herself with substances that further trapped her.
It’s common in “the life.”
“I knew that I couldn’t get out of drugs as long as I was still doing tricks,” she says today.
Before long, the prostitution overtook her. She thought that was who she was.
At times, she found it glamorous. She went to every major city. She didn’t see why any girl wouldn’t want this life. Other girls told her they got into prostitution to be like her.
But after years of abuse at the hands of pimps, and fraying relationships with her children, Jenny started to see the reality of prostitution.
“I just got harder and harder. Then, I had maybe five felonies on my record, four kids, four different dads, four failed relationships. Each relationship got to be more and more violent. I felt like the only person that would love me would be a pimp,” she said. “They’re the only ones that would love a prostitute. Or tricks, they would love you, but you don’t want to be in love with a trick.”
And pimp after pimp drilled into her brain that this is what she was for, that if she tried to leave, she would fail without him. Violence and threats kept her from leaving if it ever did cross her mind.
“You buy into that nobody will ever want you but them. You start believing that. Not only that, if you do get away, it always seems like he finds you anyway,” she said. “You’re just asking for more trouble if you get away. He’s going to find you. Just be good, don’t piss him off, do what you’re supposed to do and you won’t be hurt.”
The social stigma of prostituting meant there weren’t hands to help her up when she fell. More often she was met with judgment, or people who just wanted to exploit her more in exchange for helping.
“Nobody likes a prostitute. We’re homewreckers. We’re nasty, dirty,” she said. “Nobody has any respect for a prostitute, or any empathy.”