Originally published by the Dallas Morning News
“She looked so much like my daughter…”
That was the thought that kept rolling around in my head as I drove to work after an early morning coffee with a friend. We were sitting outside of a Starbucks in North Dallas, enjoying the beautiful fall weather and brainstorming about ways we could reach more women globally through our activism, when I saw this young girl walking through the parking lot.
She was probably all of 5-feet tall, with a thin frame and light brown wavy hair cascading passed her shoulders... just like my daughters. Her legs were tan but not in the fashionable way you’d expect in an affluent Texas city. As she walked her shorts crept up and down on her thighs, exposing a very defined tan line which was a deep red around the edges. I couldn’t tell if it was the beginning stages of a burn or the end of the healing process, either way she’d clearly been standing out in the sun for quite some time wearing those shorts. My daughter has a similar pair which she usually throws on over her leotard on the way to gymnastics practice.
The young woman had beads of sweat covering her face, but given the cool morning breeze, I knew it wasn’t from the weather. Her eyes were darting back and forth as she neared our table. I’d stopped talking to my friend mid-sentence and with everything in my being tried to mentally will the girl to come over to us. My silent prayer was that once she got closer she might pause long enough that we could offer her a cup of coffee, or something to eat. Anything to be able to talk to her. After all, here we were trying to think of ways to "love women better" around the world, all the while she was being “loved” the wrong way in our own backyard.
A few months back I had stopped at the gas station across the street from that Starbucks. I noticed a giant fishbowl of 25 cent condoms near the register. It seemed so odd to me, and when I made a comment to the clerk he responded with, “Yeah, they are big sellers here.”
“Here?” What did that mean?
It didn’t take long for me to start noticing young women standing near the lights at this particular intersection every time I passed. Often they’d be accompanied by a male. Unlike the usual panhandlers in that area they were never holding signs though. Just standing. Quietly advertising.
So when this girl, who was probably only 6 or 7 years older than my 10-year-old daughter, blew passed us without pausing as she headed towards the run down hotel behind Starbucks, my heart broke. I knew why her legs were so sun-kissed. I knew why her face was so damp. I wondered if she was ever in gymnastics. I wondered if her mother ever had to wrangle that beautiful wavy hair into a top bun before practice. How did she get here? She doesn’t belong here. No woman belongs here.
Women are being exploited on street corners and sold in back pages across the country because we claim sex work is all about agency and it can even be empowering. Perhaps to a select few, but let's not kid ourselves, those few are privileged. The ones who are truly choosing to sell themselves like property with clear and sober minds are not the norm. The average woman, or girl in many cases, is escaping abuse and pursuing addiction. She is stuck in a vicious cycle that makes her more vulnerable than any child should ever be. And she need compassion, not criminal charges. She needs rehabilitation, not a rap sheet.
In just a few years that girl’s young face will have aged by decades. She will no longer look like my daughter, but she will still be someone’s child.
Post by Destiny