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n 2015, we met Lee, a bright 20 year old woman whose smile and laugh could instantly brighten a room. Lee worked every night from 7pm to 3am- providing sexual services to customers who came to her shop.
As we built a relationship over time, Lee told us that she worked in this job because her brother had a serious illness and frequently needed expensive medical treatment. Their family couldn't afford it, so Lee took it upon herself to provide.
"As soon as he gets better, I'm going to leave and become a beautician", she told us.
Though Lee was voluntarily in the sex industry, she frequently experienced abuse from her customers and lived in fear of police, clients, and society's judgement.
One day, Lee told us that she was ready to find another job-- but where could she start? With only a 6th grade education and little to put on a resume, she didn't have many market-ready skills and lacked confidence to begin the interview process.
Moreover, her brother was still sick. And many jobs didn't pay a living wage to survive off of, much less to pay for medical bills.
Through our social enterprise partners, we were able to place Lee in a good job with fair wages and fair working conditions. We provided counseling and social support and she began to heal from her trauma. However, her brother's illness seemed to persist and he continued to pressure her to give him money, even threatening her and her daughter.
Over time, Lee was able to identify that her brother was using and manipulating her-- he had never even been sick to begin with! Through counseling, Lee was able to build confidence, identify healthy boundaries and make choices to protect herself and her daughter.
Today, she is a leader in her company and frequently shares her story of abuse and exploitation with others to encourage them that they can make choices and take control of their lives. Lee is a fabulous mother and was just recently able to send her daughter to school for the first time.
THANK YOU for helping survivors regain control of their own lives and achieve sustainability.
*To protect confidentiality, all names have been changed and stock photos may be used.
In addition, minor details have been edited.
Please reference our Media Ethics Policy to read more.
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