News » Cover Story. As Donna Steele walks down State Street, she keeps her head lowered and her gaze fixed on the ground as her flip-flops hammer the sun-baked sidewalk. A driver honks his horn, but the year-old ignores it. Despite her determined stride that mid-July afternoon, her tired, floral-print dress fluttering around her ankles, Steele is acutely aware of every car that passes her.
Anything else goes to food, cigarettes and money to send to her incarcerated youngest son.
Sex-solicitation busts dropped from in to 25 in But, Sgt. Steele, as well as Candyss, 44, and her partner, year-old Tina Candyss and Tina are pseudonymswho also sell sex, agreed to tell their stories to City Weekly to underscore the need for committed resources for street sex workers. In June and July of this year, Steele resided two doors down.
Each room has a bed, a dresser, a TV, a small en-suite shower and toilet. The motel is a squat, single-story row of rooms, where drug busts and police stings of prostitutes occasionally suppress the feverish illegal activity.
Steele says she used to get up at 4 a. And she desperately wants to quit prostitution. That seeming invisibility, combined with having no one to advocate for them and an inability to break out of the cycle of addiction, homelessness and prostitution, essentially leaves street sex workers feeling that they have nowhere to go.
That said, help is available, at least in theory.
Sex work inevitably carries with it emotional and psychological trauma from violence, both physical and sexual. The indigent are eligible for 10 state-mandated services if they have mental-health needs, including case management to get them housing, health and mental-health care and other programs. But few if any prostitutes know that they have such rights.
When told of the state-mandated services, Steele is furious. Another barrier, she says, is the reality of their day-to-day lives. She says she grew up in an upper-middle-class family in Salt Lake City before unsuccessful marriages, homelessness and escalating drug addiction led her to street prostitution in the late s, when she left her third husband.
They drove to Payless to purchase condoms, but in the parking lot, he pulled out his police badge.
Steele did three days in jail for solicitation. After that, she says, she began to turn to street prostitution at times of economic desperation, depression and homelessness.
InSteele was run over on State Street, breaking both of her shoulders, an eye socket and multiple other bones. She was in such pain she was put into a medical coma. Shortly after she was released, her fourth husband left her, and she returned to prostitution, so many bone-setting screws jutting out of her, she says, that she resembled something out of Hellraiser. Medical issues continue to dog Steele.
Nathaniel says his mother has been trapped in a circle of addiction, homelessness and prostitution for years. She does it to survive. That venting has occasionally deteriorated into physical fights or tear-stained departures. Tall, wiry and intense, Candyss, 44, is fast-spoken with a shy laugh and a dark, angry gaze. She was adopted at six months and raised by a well-off Mormon family in Bountiful.
Her biological parents found her when she was 8, resulting in her shuttling back and forth between Rhode Island and Utah. She says that before crack cocaine consumed her life, she worked at Market Street Grill in Cottonwood Heights as a sous chef. Her only cooking in recent years was an annual Thanksgiving dinner for prostitutes and addicts paid for by a well-known pimp, whom, she says, was murdered by two sex workers in late November She gave up everything for crack cocaine.
Her descent from addiction into prostitution began after she was released from jail at 3 a. She had no family to go to, no home to return to, no friends to call.
She was walking down West when a man in a minivan, child car seats in the back, stopped to give her ride. She needed stitches. The only visitor she had in the hospital for the month it took her to recover was her estranged adoptive mother, she says, her voice dropping. One came from a year-old Honduran crack dealer, Pedro, whom she met on the street.
In exchange, she would have sex with nine Latinos, twice, with a half-hour break after each three, then do another nine the following day. It was like watching a bad movie.
But I could tell she was scared. She met the youth with whom she would later have a daughter when she was 13 or 14, and started drinking beer and doing weed, acid and mushrooms.
She had her daughter when she was An escalating meth addiction led her, age 23, to the streets. But then her face crumples. He was pretty quick.
I feel like I let her down. I do have morals, I do have principles—pretty funny things coming from a whore.
The client watches the two of them for 30 minutes, then one of them goes into the bathroom and the client has sex with the other. Candyss talks about finding work as a cook or, if not, as a dominatrix.
Candyss says she hates men, and so inflicting pain and humiliation—both legal, unlike sex—would not be a problem. Tina wants to work on her art.
Her drawing of a labrador takes pride of place above their bed. Organized crime trafficking in women and children for sex is receiving increasing media attention, in part because those who are forced into sex work and moved from state to state are clearly identifiable as victims.
Prostitutes, on the other hand, receive neither treatment in lieu of jail nor a clean record. Instead, Candyss says, prostitutes face a life of arrests, warrants, running from the law and jail time.
She says the lack of resources for prostitutes has long troubled her. It was always a means to accomplish goals that anyone else has: safety, stability, security. The array of issues they were facing were all interconnected. A sex-solicitation conviction would mean limited access to employment. Then there were substance-abuse issues to deal with, and co-occurring mental-health concerns, some stemming from sexual or physical assault experienced either as or an adult.
The johns program, however, rolled on. Daniels says the class has, over a decade, worked with several hundred men who took pleas in abeyance and participated in 10 weeks of classes, discussing their crime and their attitude toward women, sex and prostitutes. The lack of a funding stream of fees and fines for a program for prostitutes frustrates Kindness. Mobile case management, Hunt believes, would provide help for the women to navigate the complexities of accessing resources, be it substance-abuse treatment, inpatient services or finding housing.
While the money may flow in when a prostitute is young, as the years and the trauma of sex work add up, so it becomes harder and harder to survive. Seemingly, the only constant is the danger of violence from pimps, clients and others on the street.
Ina man, after an argument with his wife, murdered two prostitutes in Ogden. You never let them take you where they want to take you. Steele expresses sadness at her being on the street.
Get off the street. Things did not go well for Steele. In a few days, the rent will run out and she will either earn the money on the street to move to a cheaper motel or, lacking clients, be homeless.
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