12 Oct Drugs & Prostitution in Vancouver
It is one of the world’s oldest professions, and it is also the profession a multitude of drug addicts turn to in active addiction. Prostitution is a high-risk lifestyle that leads many addicts to death, disease, and incarceration. A lot of women in addiction will inevitably resort to prostitution as a means to support their drug habit, not thinking of the consequences that can occur.
Vancouver has a population of 1,000+ street sex workers, who are primarily found on the Downtown Eastside; many of them of Aboriginal descent. Even though Aboriginals make up only 2% of Vancouver’s population, 40% of Vancouver’s street sex workers are Aboriginal. 96% of street sex workers reported having been sexually abused as children, and 81% reported childhood physical abuse. These women then grow up to be further victimized; many women who work on the street as prostitutes become casualties of rape, violence, human trafficking, and murder. The public and the police seem to consider these women “expendable”; many sex workers go missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and almost none of these cases have been solved.
Homelessness, drug addiction, trauma, and mental illness are the main contributing factors as to why women resort to the sex trade. There is, of course, a seemingly more “glamorous” side of the sex trade, and they are referred to as “high-end escorts” or “call girls”.
These women who are usually between the ages of 18-25, can work independently or through an escort agency. Escort agencies are operated by multiple people, these can include someone to work the phones, a driver or multiple drivers, and a boss. If the boss is a woman they refer to her as a “Madam”. Escort agencies typically have a location called an “incall”.
These can be apartments, condominiums, or houses where the escorts will have their clients come to see them for an hour or longer sessions. The escorts give a certain percentage of their income to the agency, the standard industry rate being 60% kept by the escort, and 40% of every appointment given to the agency. Escort agencies set their call girls up with professional photos, training, and advertisements.
While high-end escorting may seem to be “better” than street sex work, at the base level it is the same. Violence and criminal prosecution occur frequently even in these supposedly “safer” work environments. The emotional trauma inflicted is catastrophic.
One escort named Chrissy* described it like this; “Every time I see a client it is like more of my soul is slowly being taken away, after a while you start to feel dead inside, and use more and more drugs to ease the shame and numb the pain you feel. The sex trade brings nothing but utter emptiness and despair. It feels like I will never be able to get out, I need to have a way to buy my drugs and pay my rent but I can’t function in normal society enough to work a 9-5 job.”
In addition, Chrissy’s* multiple prostitution arrests have made her unemployable in the eyes of most businesses or companies.
Sex work has a stigma attached to it, ultimately it is considered taboo in the eyes of the public. Being able to have an open and honest conversation about the sex trade is a difficult thing. Even after women get sober they have a difficult time owning up to past prostitution.
There is nothing to be ashamed about; addiction takes us to many dark places. Andy Bhatti understands this being a survivor of sexual abuse and trauma himself. If you or a loved one is resorting to prostitution to support their alcohol and drug habit then help is available.
Andy Bhatti is a well-known interventionist from Vancouver who can help you or your loved ones find treatment. Andy Bhatti is a former heroin addict from the Downtown Eastside who got his life together and now helps other addicts in need.
One former heroin addict who is now in recovery, Cat*, who is also a former sex worker, says this about Andy Bhatti “Andy Bhatti literally saved my life, he referred me to a medical clinic that helped me get off fentanyl and methamphetamine, and now I have over a month clean. Andy was extremely understanding and helpful and I owe him my life, I will be forever grateful.”
If you or a loved one has a problem and is looking for help, please contact Andy Bhatti, interventionist.