#sexworkstories #5 #ricki

We are pleased to be adding a fifth installment to our #sexworkstories series. This story is told by Ricki, a long time client of Peers, who shares a lot of wisdom based on his two decades of sex work experience.

_____________________________________________________________

I’m a sex worker transitioning out of the industry. Sex work happened to me by fluke 20 years ago, but it has come in handy. I was always working minimum-wage jobs, so sex work gave me additional income. It’s not easy raising two kids on minimum wage.

I’m originally from Vancouver Island. A place that I feel like I’ve spent half my life trying to leave, and the rest trying to get back to. I’ve worked in the park; I’ve also worked in Vancouver. I would post on Craigslist what bathhouse I was going to be in, and make up to $3,000 in a few hours. But I couldn’t hustle straight and the money never lasted long. I got to a point where I was homeless and couch-surfing.

I’ve been an active client of Peers for a number of years but when I first connected with them it was through their Men@Peers program. In those days, it was sandwiches, lube and condoms provided by outreach staff down at Beacon Hill Park. At that point I found myself in a spot where I wasn’t comfortable, really second-guessing myself. I was very close to rock-bottom.

During that time in my life, it had been becoming even easier for me to get high for the hustle, so it didn’t take long for me to feel worse and worse about myself. Some of my family members had really grave concerns, because they’d witnessed the change in my demeanor. It all happened in about nine months. Everyone was aware that I wasn’t looking the same, acting the same. I’d always been happy-go-lucky, and “party and play” had worked for me. But things were different.

There was this time about six or seven years ago, when I was involved in after-hours scene, when I ended up on life support for four and a half days. I woke up on the sixth day and was so surprised to see my mom there. But then I went right back out working.

I think what really made me want to get out of the hustle was a bad date. I had a bad mental health breakdown as a result. When the most severe bad date you can imagine happens, it definitely gets you thinking, “Damn, boy, you’ve got to get out.” When you can’t control who, when, where… “you’re in trouble”. A sentiment I continue to echo to myself. After that bad date happened, I knew I didn’t want to be in either of those two dark places ever again.

After I had the breakdown my sister had the option of having me sectioned (under the Mental Health Act), but she didn’t want to, so she called Peers. And that created a series of stepping stones. They were really helpful in getting me set up with counselling, outpatient services, housing. I come to Peers virtually every day now.

These days, I’m not attempting to stop hustling, but I have gone some months without it. I have established housing now, and Peers was very instrumental in that. They’ve suggested I enroll in an addiction education program given the stage of addiction I was at, I thought it would be useful for me. Through that program I learned that not everybody’s bottom is the same. Through the program I was able to learn and to think without judgment. It gave me insights into my own life.

Right now, it’s been nine months without intravenous drug use. There are longer and longer periods between my usage. I’ve gained a lot of confidence through Peers recognizing my success, and through getting housing, reconnecting with my family. I had closed a lot of people off.

Last fall, I participated in another training program with Peers, on health and wellness. That was the thing that gave me the idea that the longer I stay away from my own using, the lower my risk is for blood-borne infections. It created a snowball effect in me to want to learn more. Being armed with that knowledge keeps me safe and healthy. Keeping healthy is now at the forefront of my mind. I’m approaching my mid-40s, and it’s clear to me that I don’t want to be here when I’m 60. That’s not a judgment – just an observation.

For the first year and a bit at Peers, I think I was the only male who walked through the doors. But I’ve seen half a dozen come through since then. Being engaged with Peers over the last few years has heightened my sex-positive identity. I would never have identified as a sex worker five years ago – my hustle was my deepest darkest secret. The lies I made up! You tell so many of them.

There’s a lot of resentment and anger among those who know me when they gain the knowledge of who I really am. But it’s not someone else’s story to tell until I’m ready to share it. Now, there’s an intimate circle of friends and family who know my story. I’ve even become more comfortable at having my family drop me off at Peers instead of a couple blocks so away so they wouldn’t know where I was going.

My kids are at an age now that if I ever had to explain to them this whole double life of mine, it would be done in a supportive atmosphere. I’ve learned you don’t have to pick up every piece, and that not all of it belongs to me. I’m happy I can share my story, which is not just my story but shared with the agency that helped me with the resourcefulness, with the tools, to get to a different place.

 

#sexworkstories #5 #ricki

We are pleased to be adding a fifth installment to our #sexworkstories series. This story is told by Ricki, a long time client of Peers, who shares a lot of wisdom based on his two decades of sex work experience.

_____________________________________________________________

I’m a sex worker transitioning out of the industry. Sex work happened to me by fluke 20 years ago, but it has come in handy. I was always working minimum-wage jobs, so sex work gave me additional income. It’s not easy raising two kids on minimum wage.

I’m originally from Vancouver Island. A place that I feel like I’ve spent half my life trying to leave, and the rest trying to get back to. I’ve worked in the park; I’ve also worked in Vancouver. I would post on Craigslist what bathhouse I was going to be in, and make up to $3,000 in a few hours. But I couldn’t hustle straight and the money never lasted long. I got to a point where I was homeless and couch-surfing.

I’ve been an active client of Peers for a number of years but when I first connected with them it was through their Men@Peers program. In those days, it was sandwiches, lube and condoms provided by outreach staff down at Beacon Hill Park. At that point I found myself in a spot where I wasn’t comfortable, really second-guessing myself. I was very close to rock-bottom.

During that time in my life, it had been becoming even easier for me to get high for the hustle, so it didn’t take long for me to feel worse and worse about myself. Some of my family members had really grave concerns, because they’d witnessed the change in my demeanor. It all happened in about nine months. Everyone was aware that I wasn’t looking the same, acting the same. I’d always been happy-go-lucky, and “party and play” had worked for me. But things were different.

There was this time about six or seven years ago, when I was involved in after-hours scene, when I ended up on life support for four and a half days. I woke up on the sixth day and was so surprised to see my mom there. But then I went right back out working.

I think what really made me want to get out of the hustle was a bad date. I had a bad mental health breakdown as a result. When the most severe bad date you can imagine happens, it definitely gets you thinking, “Damn, boy, you’ve got to get out.” When you can’t control who, when, where… “you’re in trouble”. A sentiment I continue to echo to myself. After that bad date happened, I knew I didn’t want to be in either of those two dark places ever again.

After I had the breakdown my sister had the option of having me sectioned (under the Mental Health Act), but she didn’t want to, so she called Peers. And that created a series of stepping stones. They were really helpful in getting me set up with counselling, outpatient services, housing. I come to Peers virtually every day now.

These days, I’m not attempting to stop hustling, but I have gone some months without it. I have established housing now, and Peers was very instrumental in that. They’ve suggested I enroll in an addiction education program given the stage of addiction I was at, I thought it would be useful for me. Through that program I learned that not everybody’s bottom is the same. Through the program I was able to learn and to think without judgment. It gave me insights into my own life.

Right now, it’s been nine months without intravenous drug use. There are longer and longer periods between my usage. I’ve gained a lot of confidence through Peers recognizing my success, and through getting housing, reconnecting with my family. I had closed a lot of people off.

Last fall, I participated in another training program with Peers, on health and wellness. That was the thing that gave me the idea that the longer I stay away from my own using, the lower my risk is for blood-borne infections. It created a snowball effect in me to want to learn more. Being armed with that knowledge keeps me safe and healthy. Keeping healthy is now at the forefront of my mind. I’m approaching my mid-40s, and it’s clear to me that I don’t want to be here when I’m 60. That’s not a judgment – just an observation.

For the first year and a bit at Peers, I think I was the only male who walked through the doors. But I’ve seen half a dozen come through since then. Being engaged with Peers over the last few years has heightened my sex-positive identity. I would never have identified as a sex worker five years ago – my hustle was my deepest darkest secret. The lies I made up! You tell so many of them.

There’s a lot of resentment and anger among those who know me when they gain the knowledge of who I really am. But it’s not someone else’s story to tell until I’m ready to share it. Now, there’s an intimate circle of friends and family who know my story. I’ve even become more comfortable at having my family drop me off at Peers instead of a couple blocks so away so they wouldn’t know where I was going.

My kids are at an age now that if I ever had to explain to them this whole double life of mine, it would be done in a supportive atmosphere. I’ve learned you don’t have to pick up every piece, and that not all of it belongs to me. I’m happy I can share my story, which is not just my story but shared with the agency that helped me with the resourcefulness, with the tools, to get to a different place.

 

#sexworkstories #4 #toni

Read the fourth installment of our #sexworkstories series. As do all our stories, Toni’s challenges the myths and misconceptions about sex work. Her feelings about the work she does are complicated, as she says, “Before I got into the industry, I did other kinds of straight work, including managing some businesses. But sex work lets you be self-employed, pick your own hours, make more money for fewer hours worked. It does strip a bit from your soul, but what doesn’t these days? It’s not a “Pretty Woman” situation.”

 ___________________________________________

I was born and raised in Victoria, and have worked in the sex industry since 1999. I’m 48 now, but started the work after my divorce, when it was too hard to manage the household and two kids on my own. I worked at an agency in Vancouver and then in Victoria, but when the Victoria agency got shut down by police years ago, I started working outdoors. But these days I’m mostly indoors again.

Work has changed a lot in the last three years. I work off my phone mostly for my regulars, and prefer not to go out at night if I don’t have to, although I still go out if I need a little entertainment or if the phone’s not ringing. I spent 12 weeks in hospital after getting sucker-punched by a jealous outdoor worker five years ago, which broke my jaw, so I haven’t wanted to work outdoors much since then.

Most people don’t realize the dangers out there. You’d think there’d be more facilities for girls to work indoors. Agencies can be good, but they take a serious cut of what you earn – sometimes more than 50 per cent. I work out of my apartment every now and then with a few of my regulars, but mostly I try not to. This is my home, my safe zone.

Before I got into the industry, I did other kinds of straight work, including managing some businesses. But sex work lets you be self-employed, pick your own hours, make more money for fewer hours worked. It does strip a bit from your soul, but what doesn’t these days? It’s not a “Pretty Woman” situation.

Things have changed since the early days when I started. There’s a lot less business out there on the street, and a lot of the clients are much more uneasy about picking you up, because if they get pulled over more than once, they tell me that’s when police charge them. I didn’t really see any change when the new laws were introduced in 2014 and clients were criminalized, but on the street it’s always been mostly “out of sight, out of mind.” People are pretty lenient about the stroll as long as they don’t have to see it.

I wish our relation with police was more like having a liaison who we can talk to comfortably. As it is, you never know what you’re going to get with the police – some are OK, others are quite rude and say horrible stuff to us.

They aren’t monitoring us too much here in Victoria, but they make their presence known, and there have been nights where we’ve seen a police car on the street at least every 15 minutes. When they do that, it definitely deters people from stopping. Some of the clients are even starting to walk up to book the date now, to avoid risking getting pulled over.

I know the police think they’re helping us. But they’re not. They’re infringing on our work.

The clients are mostly normal people. There are a few bad dates who give everyone a bad name, though, and they have an impact. I’ve got a former roommate who has never been the same after being raped, beaten and left for dead in a park a few years ago. Lately, there has been a lot of new girls out there, and more bad dates. I think there are a lot of people who never report their bad dates, and I definitely know that these girls would go to Peers Victoria Resource Society to report them before they’d go to the police.

Usually I just hop into the car with a client and we go around the block, and if I don’t like the vibe, I get out. It would be better to be able to assess things before I got in the car, but you can’t do that with the laws the way they are, because the clients don’t want to get pulled over. I’ve been pulled over by the police in vehicles where they tell me to leave, and then keep the guy there.

I connected to Peers first through outreach. They’re like the surrogate mother for us girls. Most of us don’t have family. Five years ago, I was so unhealthy, addicted, no housing, struggling along with a broken jaw on the street. I’d been out there for two weeks with the broken jaw when Peers just grabbed onto me. They put me in a hotel, got me something to eat, helped me find this apartment where I’ve been living for three years now. Peers really got the ball rolling for me.

If it was up to me to help people working outdoors in the industry, I would have a big house where workers could eat and sleep and live but couldn’t bring clients, and a rooming house kind of place where you could bring clients. I guess that’s almost like an escort agency, but this would be more like an agency or a non-profit. For sure I support decriminalization. In a lot of ways that’s already happened anyway, but not in our relations on stroll with the police.

I would love to see a plain-clothes police officer working right out of Peers, coming out on the van with outreach every night – someone who could take a bad-date report right then and there, and hear about them right after they’ve happened. If there was someone in plain clothes who you could actually talk to without fear and who wasn’t scaring away the clients, who knows, it just might bring a lot of the bad dates to a halt.

But it would have to be the kind of officer who knew when to turn a blind eye, because there are a lot of complicated reasons why people don’t report their bad dates to police right now. They might have drug addictions, or warrants out for their arrests, or are worried they could lose their kids if someone knew the work they did. There would have to be a lot of trust with whoever this police officer is.

#sexworkstories #4 #toni

Read the fourth installment of our #sexworkstories series. As do all our stories, Toni’s challenges the myths and misconceptions about sex work. Her feelings about the work she does are complicated, as she says, “Before I got into the industry, I did other kinds of straight work, including managing some businesses. But sex work lets you be self-employed, pick your own hours, make more money for fewer hours worked. It does strip a bit from your soul, but what doesn’t these days? It’s not a “Pretty Woman” situation.”

 ___________________________________________

I was born and raised in Victoria, and have worked in the sex industry since 1999. I’m 48 now, but started the work after my divorce, when it was too hard to manage the household and two kids on my own. I worked at an agency in Vancouver and then in Victoria, but when the Victoria agency got shut down by police years ago, I started working outdoors. But these days I’m mostly indoors again.

Work has changed a lot in the last three years. I work off my phone mostly for my regulars, and prefer not to go out at night if I don’t have to, although I still go out if I need a little entertainment or if the phone’s not ringing. I spent 12 weeks in hospital after getting sucker-punched by a jealous outdoor worker five years ago, which broke my jaw, so I haven’t wanted to work outdoors much since then.

Most people don’t realize the dangers out there. You’d think there’d be more facilities for girls to work indoors. Agencies can be good, but they take a serious cut of what you earn – sometimes more than 50 per cent. I work out of my apartment every now and then with a few of my regulars, but mostly I try not to. This is my home, my safe zone.

Before I got into the industry, I did other kinds of straight work, including managing some businesses. But sex work lets you be self-employed, pick your own hours, make more money for fewer hours worked. It does strip a bit from your soul, but what doesn’t these days? It’s not a “Pretty Woman” situation.

Things have changed since the early days when I started. There’s a lot less business out there on the street, and a lot of the clients are much more uneasy about picking you up, because if they get pulled over more than once, they tell me that’s when police charge them. I didn’t really see any change when the new laws were introduced in 2014 and clients were criminalized, but on the street it’s always been mostly “out of sight, out of mind.” People are pretty lenient about the stroll as long as they don’t have to see it.

I wish our relation with police was more like having a liaison who we can talk to comfortably. As it is, you never know what you’re going to get with the police – some are OK, others are quite rude and say horrible stuff to us.

They aren’t monitoring us too much here in Victoria, but they make their presence known, and there have been nights where we’ve seen a police car on the street at least every 15 minutes. When they do that, it definitely deters people from stopping. Some of the clients are even starting to walk up to book the date now, to avoid risking getting pulled over.

I know the police think they’re helping us. But they’re not. They’re infringing on our work.

The clients are mostly normal people. There are a few bad dates who give everyone a bad name, though, and they have an impact. I’ve got a former roommate who has never been the same after being raped, beaten and left for dead in a park a few years ago. Lately, there has been a lot of new girls out there, and more bad dates. I think there are a lot of people who never report their bad dates, and I definitely know that these girls would go to Peers Victoria Resource Society to report them before they’d go to the police.

Usually I just hop into the car with a client and we go around the block, and if I don’t like the vibe, I get out. It would be better to be able to assess things before I got in the car, but you can’t do that with the laws the way they are, because the clients don’t want to get pulled over. I’ve been pulled over by the police in vehicles where they tell me to leave, and then keep the guy there.

I connected to Peers first through outreach. They’re like the surrogate mother for us girls. Most of us don’t have family. Five years ago, I was so unhealthy, addicted, no housing, struggling along with a broken jaw on the street. I’d been out there for two weeks with the broken jaw when Peers just grabbed onto me. They put me in a hotel, got me something to eat, helped me find this apartment where I’ve been living for three years now. Peers really got the ball rolling for me.

If it was up to me to help people working outdoors in the industry, I would have a big house where workers could eat and sleep and live but couldn’t bring clients, and a rooming house kind of place where you could bring clients. I guess that’s almost like an escort agency, but this would be more like an agency or a non-profit. For sure I support decriminalization. In a lot of ways that’s already happened anyway, but not in our relations on stroll with the police.

I would love to see a plain-clothes police officer working right out of Peers, coming out on the van with outreach every night – someone who could take a bad-date report right then and there, and hear about them right after they’ve happened. If there was someone in plain clothes who you could actually talk to without fear and who wasn’t scaring away the clients, who knows, it just might bring a lot of the bad dates to a halt.

But it would have to be the kind of officer who knew when to turn a blind eye, because there are a lot of complicated reasons why people don’t report their bad dates to police right now. They might have drug addictions, or warrants out for their arrests, or are worried they could lose their kids if someone knew the work they did. There would have to be a lot of trust with whoever this police officer is.

Small Business Training Program starting up – Application deadline Thursday September 15th

Learn basic bookkeeping, how to handle debt, business registration, record keeping and how to build a business plan. We will look at different business structures and will develop a social enterprise plan for Peers. Graduates will be ready to apply for a Community Micro Loan to start their own business.

Classes run on Mondays from 2:30 to 5:30pm and Thursdays 2:30 to 4:30 pm from Monday September 26th 2016 to Thursday February 23rd 2017.

If you have a business idea, please fill in an application before September 15! Applications and more information available from the front desk at Peers or by contacting Julie H at julie.arunaconsulting@gmail.com.

 

Small Business Training Program starting up – Application deadline Thursday September 15th

Learn basic bookkeeping, how to handle debt, business registration, record keeping and how to build a business plan. We will look at different business structures and will develop a social enterprise plan for Peers. Graduates will be ready to apply for a Community Micro Loan to start their own business.

Classes run on Mondays from 2:30 to 5:30pm and Thursdays 2:30 to 4:30 pm from Monday September 26th 2016 to Thursday February 23rd 2017.

If you have a business idea, please fill in an application before September 15! Applications and more information available from the front desk at Peers or by contacting Julie H at julie.arunaconsulting@gmail.com.