WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Prostitution. It's often called the "oldest profession in the world," even though that label is highly unlikely. Realistically, trades like hunting, farming or medicine are the pioneer industries in early civilization - not prostitution.
Yet simply because the sex industry has been around for ages, that somehow justifies the sale of a woman's skin.
Or perhaps you've heard this before: "Hey if it's two consenting adults and they're not hurting anybody...."
Of course, we couldn't say that if there was a chance she's not an adult, though she may look it. Or if she didn't consent to anything, someone consented for her. Or if we knew that there was a very good chance that there was a spouse or significant other at home who would be heartbroken and horrified to hear about any of it.
Those chances are very real.
Globally, the average age of entry into prostitution is early teens. Human trafficking is one of the world's fastest-growing crimes.
The street name for prostitution is "The Life," a term that may conjure thoughts of red light districts, brothels or bad neighborhoods in big cities but in reality, prostitution is in Wilmington, NC.
"It's a highly, highly violent, volatile, dangerous, dark industry," said Lindsey Roberson, former Assistant District Attorney in New Hanover County. Roberson spent years fighting antiquated North Carolina laws to make harsher penalties for pimps and traffickers.
WECT's Casey Roman began shooting "The Life" as the last documentary, "In Vein," was wrapping up. In producing the heroin report it became clear that wherever there was a drug problem there was a prostitution problem.
Addicts explained that men will typically rob and steal for their drugs, while women often have "other" ways of supporting their fix.
So began our look into prostitution in the Cape Fear area. After a series of introductions with women living The Life, everything we thought we knew about prostitution changed.
"That's how I convinced myself how to do this," Nikki reflected as she played with her pink striped detention center shirt. "I was promiscuous before for free, so why not do it for money?"
If you look at that comment on its own it's easy to wrap up prostitution as "bad women doing bad things." Especially when you hear how seemingly casual they are describing the terrible things it entails.
"A hundred bucks for just a quick ten minutes and it was done," Alyson laughed. "I was like 'Hey! This is all you gotta do. This is not that bad.'"
But if you hear their life stories, the stories of so many sex workers, and a truer picture unfolds. That dismissive laugh and unaffected response is not uncommon. Psychotherapists explain it as a coping mechanism. A way of telling their brain that the outside experience is not as extreme as it really is.
WECT's documentary "The Life: Prostitution on Your Streets" will take you down the dark paths of a world you didn't think existed in the Cape Fear region. In the hour-long, commercial free special, Casey Roman will take you inside the hotels and rooms where people try to hide these secrets.