Thirteen years ago Norma Hotaling was homeless, desperate, and walking the streets as a prostitute. Now she is helping other women like her reclaim their dignity, their spirit, and their lives.
How it Began — Clean and Sober
Norma's story is not uncommon among women who later become prostitutes. After being sexually abused as a child, Norma tried to numb the pain with drugs. Soon she was selling her body to sustain her $300 dollar a day heroin addiction. After 21 years of addiction, Norma committed herself to a detox program. She turned her life around, went back to school, and knew she needed to help other women like her. She founded Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE).
Norma says, "I see the beauty of the women on the street, and I really know who they could be. I see myself in them. I see those times that I was out there and so desperate. That's what drives me to do the work that I do."
Reclaiming Lives with Respect, Resources
SAGE outreach workers go out to the streets to find women who need help. Because the majority of SAGE employees were once prostitutes or drug addicts themselves, they are able to identify with women on the streets. "I say to the women I am just like you and there's hope," says Norma. "There's a place for you to come where there's love, it's safe, and we'll help you heal."
At SAGE miracles happen everyday. "We see women come from the most desperate situations... It's almost like their spirit has been beaten out of them," says Norma. "But we look at these women and see the bit of spirit that's left in them, and it's almost like we blow life back in to them."
Programs for Mind, Body and Spirit
SAGE offers a variety of healthcare and medical services, such as trauma and drug counseling, holistic and traditional healthcare, family planning, HIV testing and treatment. SAGE also offers job training. However, Norma feels the most important part of the program is the peer counseling.
"Peer counselors are so important because prostitution brings with it a lot of shame and guilt," Norma says. "Most of my staff members are former prostitutes. [The program participants] can see that we're proud, and we're happy in our lives. They say, 'I want to be like you' and we can say, you can!"
One woman who Norma has helped says, "When I came [to SAGE], they let me know that I was worth more than being naked. I knew that if I just kept coming here, if I got the message and empowered myself, I could live again."