2013 Favs: Amazing Grace: A Former Prostitute Tells Her Story

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Linda Cavanah is the founder and Director of All Things New, a ministry for women coming out of prostitution and trafficking. In what I regard as a singular act of courage, she volunteered to write a guest post for Public Catholic telling the truth of what “sex-work” really is. The result is a first-hand, no-holds-barred witness to the reality of prostitution. Here, in her own words, is her story

.… anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone, and a new life has begun.

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My name is Linda Cavanah, and I am the founder of All Things New Inc., a faith-based organization providing residential services for victims of sex trafficking.

All Things New exists because of the healing power of Jesus Christ in my own life many years ago when I was one of the women we are now serving.

My cycle of sexual abuse began at the age of 14 when an uncle raped me in my parent’s home.  I was too frightened to tell my parents what had happened and held everything inside for many years.  At that time, I did not realize how devastating that event was to become in my life, leading to a succession of problems emotionally and spiritually. Eventually, the things that were hidden deep within me escalated into a dual addiction of alcohol and cocaine.

My first marriage lasted two years and ended in divorce. I then promptly entered into a common law marriage, and it was during this union that my ex-husband and I began dealing drugs. The drug addiction increased over the next couple of years until I was drinking approximately 13 alcoholic beverages and snorting several lines of cocaine on a daily basis. This marriage also ended in divorce.

I do need to say that both of these unions were not true marriages because we were all addicts and they were not ordained of God.

I moved to New Orleans in 1980 and lived there for several years.  I managed a restaurant and hotel on the outskirts of the French Quarter, and continued the downward spiral in my life.  it was during this time that I became involved with the owners of the hotel, and my addictions had increased to the point of having delirium tremors if I did not get up and have a drink at 2am every morning.

One night we had a party at the hotel, and I went and had sex with one of the owners.  The next morning I woke up and there was a pile of money beside my bed. In the prostitution world, this is similar to being “jumped” into a gang.

There were six men involved in the operation. They each had their own business and then had one together. All of the men each had a woman, and one had control over me.  I was sold to cops in New Orleans (used as hush money) to keep them quiet.  I had to watch pornographic films and then perform those same acts, all the while enduring painful sexual acts behind closed doors.

I wanted to run but there was no way to escape. We were not allowed to use a phone and I was trapped, both physically and emotionally. I was being “groomed” to be a madame for them, and I wanted out so badly. They told me they would kill me if I ever said anything, and they meant it.

 Even though I did not know Jesus at the time, I know He had his hand on me. I was able to leave the situation through the help of another person, and I am still here to tell this story today! I was a single mother to two children, and decided to go to nursing school.  I had a Christian nursing instructor and within a few months I came to know Jesus.

I was immediately delivered from alcohol and drugs, and have had a continual healing from the emotional wounds of my past. Last Easter I was confirmed in the Catholic Church.

God has changed my life and I am eternally grateful. However, there are hundreds of thousands of young women and girls who are trapped in the horrible world of sex trafficking/prostitution.  Anyone who is forced to have sex with other people, is severely beaten and/or has to turn the money over to someone who has control of them is a victim of sex trafficking. Prostitution and sex trafficking are the same thing.

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Sex trafficking is slavery. Young women and girls are made to stand on street corners, or in a room in front of a potential john, and they feel like they are on an auction block, sold to the highest bidder. They endure eyes full of lust staring at their bodies, up and down, up and down, men sizing them up like a horse, not caring anything about them, just looking for their next sexual fix. Inside, the girl is slowly dying emotionally, and probably physically.

I want you to understand that prostitution/sex trafficking is the rape of the body and the soul. Pimps, traffickers and johns are rapists.  Some of them are also murderers.

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Ninety percent of the prostituted women we have helped have had a forced abortion. They are physically held down in the place they are trapped in, and an abortion is performed on them. Included in this statistic are those women who are beaten until their babies die.  These monsters are murderers!  The traffickers starve the women, tell them when they can eat, what they can eat and if they don’t bring in a certain quota, they don’t eat at all.

About a year ago I was called to talk to a young woman who had been severely beaten by a john.  She was black and blue from the top of her head to her feet, and was eating bowl after bowl of food. She said the john had thrown her against a wall and her pimp got mad at HER, so he had not let her eat for several days. Her pimp found out through one of his other girls where she was at, and I found out later that day he drug her by the hair down a street. The next day she was unrecognizable and the pimp had her out on  the street.  Men were still buying her.

Another girl was trapped in a house.  Her trafficker put her in a bathtub of cold water, poured several pitchers of ice on her, held her down until she started bleeding, then threw her against a wall and beat her until she passed out.

We have women who were forced underground and sold twenty to twenty five times a day.  One woman had been trapped for 16 days in an apartment with her tormentors and they had sold her 400 times.  Four hundred times she had been raped!

Women who are victims of sex trafficking feel like a piece of meat.  They are so degraded and traumatized that they sometimes never recover. Their souls and their lives have been stolen. They are dead inside. Multiple personalities abound.  How else can they survive? Despair runs deep and hopelessness abounds.  These victims have a tendency to blame everything on themselves and they don’t realize it is not their fault.  They feel they are falling into a dark, deep bottomless pit.

At the bottom of it all is the pornography that fuels the fire for the demand side of sex trafficking and prostitution.

     Can you hear the cries of the human beings who are being sold?

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All Things New is a 501c3 non profit corporation.

Donations are tax-deductible.

Send donations to:

All Things New, Inc.

PO Box 513

San Antonio, TX 78292

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Sex Week at Yale University: Teaching Misogyny at $54,086 Per Year

One of my best friends is a former prostitute/drug dealer/drug addict/alcoholic.

Despite this, I don’t think she would be a star lecturer at Yale.

Prostitutes/porn stars/pimps are welcome to lecture at an annual Yale event called Sex Week. According to an August 21 article by Nathan Harden in The Daily Beast, prostitutes, porn stars and other sex industry promoters are not only welcome at Yale, their “lectures” are billed as “sex education.” The article, When Sex Isn’t Sexy: My Bizarre Education at Yale University, says in part:

And what do porn stars Sasha Grey, Ron Jeremy, and Buck Angel have in common? They are just a few of the many sex industry personalities who have been invited to lecture or “educate” Yale students in the last few years.

When the average person thinks of Yale University, sex probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Nevertheless, in recent years Yale has positioned itself as a leader in a radical new form of sex education, complete with sex toy pageants, porn star lectures, sadomasochism seminars, and fellatio demonstrations. What does any of that have to do with the mission of Yale University? That’s the question I set out to answer in my new book, Sex & God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad

Based on Mr Hardin’s article, Sex Week sounds as if it’s all about porn star power and sex industry self-promotion. However, the event organizers do attempt to put an occasional gloss of balance on the proceedings. 

For instance, Gail Dines, professor of sociology at Wheelock College, and Carolyn Bronstein, professor of communications at DePaul University, debated the issue of pornography with various sex industry representatives in 2011. Sex Week hosted another debate in 2008 in which Pastor Craig Gross who runs a support site for pornography addicts debated a pornographic film star.  

My friend might be invited to debate a porn star in an isolated event demonstrating that all viewpoints are allowed. But I don’t think her overall message would be given any serious platform at Yale’s Sex Week. 

The reason for my doubt is that she is a “fallen” prostitute.  

She had an encounter with Jesus Christ. You know — one of those knock-you-flat-in-the-middle-of-the-road conversion experiences that prove to those who experience them that God is real, He’s here and He does care about us. 

In one moment of grace, she lost her cravings for alcohol and drugs and became a new person in Christ. She “fell” from the glitzy glam of the sex industry straight into the boring straight life of love, fidelity, trust and giving to others. 

It’s an old story; two thousand years old, to be exact. My friend the former prostitute is now an anti-prostitution crusader. She founded a ministry, All Things New, that is dedicated to rescuing women who are trapped in the degrading, destructive world of prostitution.

All Things New helps women escape from the pimps and porn-pushers who beat, sell, use and discard them like yesterday’s garbage. She shields women who have been trafficked, women who are running from pimps, women who have lived their lives as things to be used and abused for so long that they’ve lost all knowledge of themselves as full human beings. 

She doesn’t require these women to convert, to profess Christ or to accept any faith. All that they need to get her help is a desire to get out. And they come. More than she can house, more than she can help; they come. Women who were grabbed off the street, those who were lied to and forced into prostitution then trafficked from one country to the next. Other women who slid into it voluntarily because a pimp they thought was their boyfriend seduced them, “groomed” them, then “seasoned” them into it. 

If they let my friend near at mike at Yale a whole lot of ugly truth about what prostitution really is would come rolling out. Those who heard her would have three choices: Ignore her, shut her up or change their ways. 

She would be a major downer at Sex Week, no doubt about it. But anyone who told the unvarnished truth would be. How many cheering studs would want to hear what “sex work” really is?

Do they want to know that according to the FBI,  between 200,000 and 300,000 children in America are forced into prostitution at any given time, that the average age of these new recruits is 13? Do they want to hear that their life expectancy is 7 years? 

How many lecture halls would fill with eager students if they heard about the beatings, the rapes, the murders, the dreadful fear of being caught talking to anyone but a john, the punishments for trying to escape? Who wants to know that by buying porn and backing prostitution they increase the market for international sex trafficking of women and children? 

How much truth is actually spoken at Sex Week? Do they manage at this elite university to make the point that the sex industry is a glitzy front and promoter of a massive, world-wide violation of the human rights of half the people on this planet?

Not according to Mr Hardin:

 … Sexism. I encountered plenty of that at Yale. During my time at Yale, the university hosted porn film screenings in its classrooms that included glamorized sexual violence and “fantasy rape.” Meanwhile, outside the classroom, frat boys were caught chanting “No Means Yes!” and “We Love Yale Sluts!” Yale has suffered a long series of embarrassing high-profile cases of sexual harassment and assault. Therefore, I was hardly surprised when a group of my female classmates filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights last year, complaining that Yale had allowed a culture of sexism and intimidation to persist on campus. It doesn’t take much to get from “fantasy rape” in the classroom to “No Means Yes!” on the campus quad.

These things happened, mind you, at a university that supposedly prides itself on its liberal concern for women’s rights. Never once did Yale officials have the courage to step forward and say that materials that glamorize sexual violence weren’t acceptable in the classroom. Instead, Yale officials claim that these things fall within the bounds of “academic freedom.” And they tried to wash their hands of it all.

Sex Week debases what was once a great educational institution into a base driver and promoter of darkest misogyny. 

There is one issue that Mr Hardin raised in his article that Yale has noted:

Yale’s cozy relationship with corporate interests in the sex industry—including numerous major porn production companies and some of the nation’s largest sex toy companies—has been the backbone of its infamous “Sex Week at Yale” event for the past ten years. Other elite universities, including Harvard, Brown, and Northwestern, have begun holding sex-themed events modeled on the corporate-backed events at Yale. Yale’s leaders say that academic freedom requires them to allow these activities. But I think they need to learn a basic business lesson: When a company comes into a classroom to market and sell its products, that’s called advertising, not education.

Simply put, academic freedom isn’t the same thing as having no academic standards. No one, for example, would say it was acceptable for Yale to host a week dedicated to denigrating blacks or gays. That would be hideous, not to mention completely irrelevant to Yale’s mission as a training ground for future leaders of the world. Yale officials would never allow such a thing. So why should events that repeatedly denigrate women be hosted year after year?

Criticisms such as this must have taken a bite. Yale ended the sex industry’s corporate sponsorship of the event. However Sex Week itself goes on. I would guess that the Yale idea of female exploitation and misogyny masquerading as education and academic freedom continues along with it.

As for my friend, I don’t expect that a message like hers will be given serious consideration at Sex Week anytime soon. Her message is not what they’re selling. 

She talks about the saving light of grace; about life and love, about living clean and whole in Christ. 

What they’re selling, at $54,086 per year, is the pit. 

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