Selling Their Bodies
By the time Lisa was 13 years old she says she was using drugs regularly. After dropping out of college, Lisa worked several jobs over the next 10 years, ending up at an advertising firm. All the while she continued using drugs. When she quit her job in 2002, Lisa became homeless and spent her time searching for a way to buy the drugs she could not afford. Lisa was desperate and began prostituting herself, getting clients by running ads in local papers. She says she has lived in this cycle of prostitution and drugs for three and a half years.
It was only after seeing Cracked Not Broken, a documentary about herself filmed by her friend's husband, that Lisa finally realized what her life had become. "I was moved in a way I didn't understand," she says. "I couldn't even put words to the feelings. How did this happen to me?"
Days after seeing the edited version of the documentary, Lisa says she walked out of her hotel room and even left all of her clothes behind. She says she hasn't turned a trick in a month and hasn't used drugs in 16 days.
"For the addict, it's surviving," she says. "I didn't do it because I enjoy sex. I didn't do it because I like men or anything like that. It was completely to feed my addiction ... I remember the first time with a dealer that I exchanged sexual favors for drugs."
Lisa says her clientele included business executives, athletes and many married men. "It's not the guy with the trench coat flashing people on the street," she says.
The idea to make the film came from Lisa herself. At a time when she was sober and not prostituting herself, Lisa was visiting Nicol. Lisa told Nicol that if she ever went back to a life of drugs and prostitution, she wanted Paul—a filmmaker—to document what that life is like.
Nicol says that Lisa thought seeing the footage might be shocking enough to get her to change her life. "At the time that was the objective," Nicol says.
"Remarkable things have happened since this film was made," Lisa says. She now speaks in schools about her experiences with addiction and prostitution.
Oprah Show correspondent Lisa Ling followed the Oklahoma City Police Department's vice squad on a sting to expose a hot spot of child prostitution called "Party Row."
On Party Row, the police explain, anywhere between six and 20 young girls a night walk between the trucks to solicit "dates." The truckers flash their lights to signal that they are looking for sex.
One woman who is arrested is a 19-year-old college student, who tells Lisa she sells herself to support her children. She says she doesn't count how many men she has sex with in a given night. "I already feel bad about it as it is. And then you think about how many people you've been with—it's just crazy," she says.
Despite the means in which she supports herself, the woman still dreams of getting off Party Row. "I want to be a nurse," she says. "That is what I'm going to school for, to be a registered nurse. I don't want to be a prostitute forever."
To make her quota of $1,000 every night, Amber says she sometimes had to have sex with as many as 20 men in a day. If she didn't make her quota, she says her pimp would beat her mercilessly. "I can't see straight sometimes still because of [the beatings]," she says. "My vision goes blurry and I'll see double sometimes."
Amber says she suffers from other negative effects of her life as a prostitute. "You don't feel like a person anymore," she says. "You don't feel any emotion. It takes your dignity and your self-respect, self-esteem. It strips you of it."
"The pimps do actively recruit the young," Special Agent Beaver says. "In the subculture, the young child, sadly, brings more money, and the pimps know that."
Anderson admits that greed—not concern for the women—motivated him to become a pimp. "I wanted the money," Anderson says. "I overlooked the moral ramifications of it for their money. Families think I'm despicable."
Law enforcement agents tell Lisa that when they bust pimps at their homes, they have to bring extra squad cars and child safety seats, because there are so many kids in the house. "It is sickening," Lisa says.
Oftentimes, prostitutes don't see a penny of the money they earn on the streets. Every dollar goes into the pocket of their pimp, Lisa explains. So why are so many young women becoming prostitutes? Special Agent Beaver says the glamorization of the sex industry in music and on TV contributes to the problem. "Society today, in many ways, condones it," he says. "We have little people growing up seeing that and that's what they think is acceptable."
Despite what some may think, there's nothing glamorous about prostitution. According to the Inter-Press Service, an international journalists' organization, the number one cause of death among prostitutes is murder.
Marie says she met her pimp at a bus stop when she was on her way home from class. The man continuously called her and finally convinced her to meet him at a local bar, where he persuaded her to try prostitution. "He told me that I was a superstar...that it would be easy for me to make a lot of money," she says. Within 24 hours of meeting with the pimp, Marie turned her first trick.
At home, Marie's mother began noticing changes in her daughter, and then, Marie disappeared from home. Her parents didn't know if she was dead or alive.
When her pimp became violent, Marie got the courage to leave and returned home to her family. She was on the streets for eight months and estimates that she had sex with 300 people.
Marie's mother says she hopes their story will be a warning to parents. "When you come from a family like ours, prostitution isn't even something that you would even think about would happen," she says. "If it can happen to our family, it can happen to anybody."
When Contessa's husband left her, she says she started abusing drugs and turned to prostitution to support her crack habit. "I felt what I was doing was wrong," she says. "But I couldn't stop."
The dark side of prostitution made life on the streets a never-ending nightmare. Contessa says she was raped twice, sliced across the face and stabbed with an ice pick while turning tricks. "After a while, the family stopped showing up at the hospital because I think they were getting tired of it," she says. "When they stopped showing up, I knew I had nothing, nobody."
Contessa says it's been two years since she stopped prostituting herself. Now, Contessa is working with PRIDE, a non-profit organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that helps women get out and stay out of prostitution. She has a job and a place to live, but she can't let go of her past. "I don't feel clean yet," she says. "I feel like a dirty person all the time. ... They have just used me up so much. They turned me into nothing."
"If you believe yourself, as you've told the world today, that you're all used up, then your life will be," Oprah says. "There's nothing else that could ever possibly happen that would bring you joy, that would bring you meaning, that would bring you a sense of fulfillment if that is what you believe. You become what you believe. ... God has great plans for you. Great things will happen to you in your life."
When Oprah looks into Contessa's eyes, she says she sees herself. "When I was 14 years old, I was running the streets," she says. "And there but for the grace of God, if my father hadn't taken me in, I could have been you or any one of the girls here."