Toronto, at the Corner
of Parliament and Winchester.
7: 40 p.m. Sept. 19.
Idid not expect Donna* to look so nor- mal. In fact, she so much resembled the
middle-aged woman next door, I wondered
if Jan Rothenburger, my Yonge Street Mission contact for this story, had understood
I wanted to speak with a woman who had
worked – and left – the sex trade.
But there we sat in a Tim Horton’s
in Toronto’s Old Cabbagetown, about to
launch into what I feared would be a very
There was no need to worry.
Donna, my age almost exactly, has spent
the last 30 years in and out of jail. “Every
time you get out, you have nothing and you
end up prostituting to get a hotel room for
the night,” she explains.
And when drugs needed to be bought,
her body needed to be sold, mostly to
“businessmen on their way to work.
They’re the ones with cash in hand,” she
As she shares her story of colossal pain
– and how drugs seemed to numb it out
for years – Donna methodically tears up
the plastic lid from her coffee and sweeps
the pieces into a neat pile. “I need stability.
I require it,” she explains as she describes
her days now filled with reading books
and cleaning houses when the opportunity arises.
Although the list of people and circum-
stances she could blame for her life thus far
is long, Donna will not read from it. “I take
responsibility for my own actions now,”
This is a fierce and tender woman. Life
has taught her to rely only on herself.
Jan Rothenburger holds a fragile, fleeting opportunity to be trusted. She is a community outreach pastor whose congregation are the women and girls trapped in
this life, or rebuilding a new one.
“I’m not what people expect a pastor to
be. I never dress up. I smoke. I swear,” says
Jan. Donna laughs and says Jan fits right in.
It’s a big compliment.
Donna loves being with her grandchildren, newly, cautiously introduced
into her life by a son willing to give her
“This might be the first time I make it,”
she says. Donna’s eyes well up, but they
won’t be spilling over on this night. Pride
Donna tells me she visited a church in
Brampton. “When the pastor found out I
was from a halfway house, he wouldn’t
look me in the eyes. It wasn’t welcoming.” When I ask her what she would
like “church people” to most understand
about what she has lived through, she says,
“People are all the same. We are all equal.”
An old, dusty, bent-over man shuffles
past our table. This is a classy Tim Horton’s
with a decorative tin-plated ceiling and nice
lighting. He sticks out.
“This guy,” says Donna, nodding her
head in his direction, “I took him to a half-
Be equipped to
Make a Difference
By Stephen Bedard, Bill Fledderus &
Now is an important time for Canadian Christians to be informed about the issues surrounding prostitution – and
use our voices and knowledge to take action
and influence change.
The following collection will help equip
you by bringing together some of the best
articles on prostitution that Faith Today has
published. Original texts have been updated
We weren’t able to fit into this booklet all
the great resources available from our publisher, The evangelical Fellowship of Canada
(eFC), so we have also compiled a more extensive collection, including selected eFC blog
posts and other resources by eFC staff, at
The supreme Court of Canada has given
the Canadian government one year to enact
new prostitution laws. The eFC supports
a legal approach called the nordic model.
It acknowledges that the vast majority
within the sex trade are there not by choice.
Instead of punishing prostituted women, the
focus is on prosecuting the purchasers of
sex with the aim of decreasing the demand
for prostitution. Read on for more information about the nordic model, and visit
The goal of this Faith Today resource is to
equip Christians with the basic knowledge
we need to make informed choices about the
future of prostitution in Canada – not just
changing laws but getting involved to change
lives. Another way Christians can equip ourselves is to attend one of the Defend Dignity
forums the eFC cosponsors (details at
We hope all this will lead you to pray, of
course; perhaps to communicate with your
Member of Parliament; and to ask yourself
what you can do locally. some general guidelines for taking action on social issues are at
May God bless Canada as our country
rethinks and rewrites its prostitution laws.
May the Body of Christ be enlivened with a
vision for the ministry we might be called to
in the areas of prevention, relief, transition
and advocacy on behalf of some of our most
vulnerable neighbours. FT
After Dark in Toronto, Winnipeg &
Three writers in three cities report on life after
dark for prostituted women and the Christians
who reach out to them.
By Karen Stiller, Doug Koop and Andrew Stephens-Rennie. Sidebar by
Julia Beazley. Originally published in Faith Today, Nov/Dec 2013.
* Names have been changed to protect identities.