out of her backpack as if it is a child she is piggybacking
around town. I wonder who it replaces.
Cindy’s face crumbles as Jan asks her gentle questions.
“How are you? Are you okay? What’s going on?” Cindy’s
voice is soft, whispery in response. She cries and pleads
with Jan to call her boyfriend to come down quickly. Her
pain floats through the open window and begins to replace
the oxygen in the car.
There is something very bad happening here.
Cindy’s boyfriend, who Jan thinks might be a good guy,
shows up. Jan invites Cindy to a Prayer Day coming up at
church, which meets at Yonge Street Mission.
“You want to save her from hell? This is hell right here,”
says her boyfriend, pointing to the concrete sidewalk. “She’s
in hell now.”
As we pull away from this dark, dark place, Jan says,
“You never give up on anybody. I know she loves the Lord,
I know that. You just love the person. It doesn’t matter if
they smoke crack. You love them just the same.” Later, we
see Cindy weaving across the street, all alone.
It is clear the claws of addiction are sunk deeply into
most of the women we see on the street tonight. I volunteer
to put a necklace with an angel pendant on Heather, one
of the final women we speak to. Jan wants her to have it.
Heather is funny, bright, engaging, and patient as she has
to practically crawl into the front seat of Jan’s Buick and lie
across my legs as I struggle with the clasp. She is wearing a
funky tweed cap, has alcohol seeping from her pores, and
says she doesn’t come out very often anymore. She looks
just like a friend of mine.
Just an Addiction Away
More than once on this night I have felt it is only drug or
alcohol addiction that stands between the streets they work
on and the street I live on.
Eve*, another friend of Jan’s, free now of prostitution,
confirms this hunch. She tried crack three times, and the
third time it enslaved her. “The choice was removed from
me. My addiction made me do it. It’s not by choice I prostituted. To work on the streets, you’re doing it for addiction.”
Eve, again, strikes me as extraordinarily ordinary in appearance, in how she speaks, in her love for her children,
Shona Stewart believes there is a way out of prostitution. She should know. She spent 16 years as a sex
worker before shedding her addictions
and finding satisfaction for her deeper
spiritual cravings in accepting Jesus
Christ as her Lord and Saviour.
Now she is putting her experience
to work by assisting other women who
are trying to exit the sex trade. “God has
called me to help women – to help them
understand that there is hope on the other
side of a prostituted lifestyle, that there is
hope in Jesus Christ.”
Stewart is the director of Dignity house
in Winnipeg, Man., a Christian and Mission-
ary Alliance church initiative. Dignity house
is a home where Stewart lives with as many
as three women who are making the effort
to escape the vicious trap of prostitu-
tion. She teaches an array of life skills and
provides counselling which includes a thor-
ough grounding in Christian discipleship.
“We need Christ to give us the thing
we’re missing – the love, the hope, trust in
a loving Father who will bring us through
all trials in life.”
Getting out of the sex trade is never an
easy process. “These women need to be
loved each step of the way,” says Stewart.
It’s not enough for Christians to just talk
about good news. “prostituted women
need to see the good and mercy we talk
Stewart sometimes finds herself in ten-
sion with people on all sides of the prosti-
tution issue. Many people simply avoid it
or maintain that since everyone has a right
to treat their body as they please, there’s
no point interfering.
On the other hand, there are the moralizers – often in the Christian community
– who slot sex sins into a special category
and are insufferably harsh on prostitutes.
She has a message for the Church.
“The Christian community needs to
understand that the outcomes and successes will differ greatly from their ideal.
If my house is not full, that doesn’t mean
we’re not succeeding. When women I’ve
seen and worked with come back and
want to try again, that’s a success.”
Stewart is also a vocal advocate work-
ing for the abolition of prostitution in Can-
ada through the Defend Dignity network.
She tells her story to raise awareness
and lobbies “for stronger legal and social
deterrents to eliminate both the illicit
demand for and the selling of sex.”
“We need to educate men on the harm
they’re doing to girls and communities,”
she insists. FT –Doug Koop
“There is hope on the
other side of a prostituted lifestyle.”