Karen was only 15 when she was seduced by a pimp, but she was one of my closest friends. I’ll never forget the scars on her face, and the black circles under her eyes, and the fear in her voice when she spoke of him. But I also remember how she needed him to need her and want her. She was lost without him. She was dead without him. And the irony was that he probably would have killed her if she dared leave him. When I wrote New Hope City, I often thought about my friend Karen. I wondered how she had fallen into the pimp’s snare. And when I look back, I would say that she was much like Sunni, the main character in New Hope City, in that her descent into the hell of prostitution began in a place that’s supposed to be safe – home.
Parents Play Dumb
Some parents are just too busy to uhm…well, to parent. They’ve got their own lives. Or, maybe their life hasn’t turned out the way they wanted and they want their kid to make it a little easier. My friend Karen had a parent like that. She was an only child and her mom was a single parent, and of course they didn’t have much money. Her mom liked to keep boyfriends around, and if she was real nice to them they would leave a few dollars on the nightstand. That could pay the light bill or buy a bag of groceries, but it also made the boyfriends feel entitled to more than just Karen’s mom. They took liberties with Karen too, and her mom would just play dumb, like she didn’t see anything.
Pimps Seem Nice – By Comparison
I’m not too sure about when Karen first started having problems with her mom’s boyfriends, I just know that one Summer she just seemed different, quiet, somber, and maybe even a little angry. That’s when she met Juan, that’s what people called him, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t his real name. Everyone in the neighborhood knew that he was no good. No one ever used the word pimp to describe him, but we all knew that’s what he was. When Karen’s mood first started to improve I thought that maybe things had gotten better at home, that she had been able to get the men to stop “messing with her” as she always described it, but when she told me that Juan had given her a pair of new (and expensive) sneakers I knew she was headed for trouble. Juan’s string of gifts made my friend happy but they also made her stupid, well stupid for him. She started hanging out late. And then she stopped hanging out with me and her other friends. And from there things went downhill. Rumors spread that she was “fooling around” with grown men and that she had moved in with Juan. That was the last time I saw Karen. She didn’t even show up for school that Fall.
There Are No Angels
In the movies, prostituted teens are portrayed as innocent victims worthy of a savior. They’re usually kidnapped or somehow forced into “the life.” But the reality of teen prostitution is a lot more murky. Prostituted girls like my friend aren’t perfect. They’re flawed and damaged which makes them do things that flawed and damaged people do. These girls may seem like troubled kids, stealing, lying, fighting and engaging in promiscuous sex. And it’s these things that make people less likely to see them as worthy of saving. Just like my old friend, they get lost. And just like my old friend, they may face an early and tragic end. But when I wrote New Hope City I wanted to talk about a girl like Karen, someone who may be damaged and flawed but who is in fact worthy of a savior.
SunHi Mistwalker writes fiction set in dystopic and post-apocalyptic worlds. Her new novel New Hope City, a dark coming-of-age story set in a post-apocalyptic America, follows the life of Sunni Brown, a teenage girl exploited by sex traffickers who tries to get a fresh start when she meets a disillusioned cop. She is also the author of the science fiction series After The Darkness. Please sign up for the mailing list for receive updates, freebies and special discounts. You can also follow SunHi on Twitter and Facebook.