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Danger

While pimps are notorious for physical and mental abuse, using Backpage has created a new risk in the prostitution industry. Operating solo also means there's no one to protect the prostitutes when things with clients go wrong. (Source: WECT) While pimps are notorious for physical and mental abuse, using Backpage has created a new risk in the prostitution industry. Operating solo also means there's no one to protect the prostitutes when things with clients go wrong. (Source: WECT)

While pimps are notorious for physical and mental abuse, using Backpage has created a new risk in the prostitution industry. Operating solo also means there's no one to protect the prostitutes when things with clients go wrong.

And they go wrong all the time.

"I’ve had men try to rob me," Tonya explained. "I’ve had guys pull out guns. It's not an easy business at all. You have to be scared for every person that you see."

Some girls get around this danger with hired help, sometimes called "leeches." These are men who "apply" to work for a prostitute to provide her security, act as a driver, buy her drugs, and even running her a bath at night. Essentially, he is her personal assistant.

Sometimes these men will hide in the bathroom while girls serviced a client or stake out close to her door to make sure everything goes as planned. 

"People rob you, all the time," Taylor reinforced. "Guys will run up in the room or a guy might pay you, and then you do what he wants you to do, and then run out with the money."

Think about it. A grown man comes to visit a young girl alone in a room. It's very easy for him to rape or rob her and it happens all the time. Or, now that he knows where she's located, he can simply make a return visit when he can catch her off guard. She's not making a deposit at the bank so he knows what he'll find.

These crimes are extremely common and they are rarely reported. When they do, the girls say there's little help offered.

"He grabbed me by my arm, and I told him if he didn’t let go of me I was going to call the cops," Alexa said. "As soon as I took out my phone and unlocked it to try to call the cops, he snatched my phone from me, put me in a choke hold. And that’s when I started fighting and trying to hit him and he hit me back."

Alexa fought to get the door open to escape, but the man grabbed her by the hair and ripped a chunk of it out. She ran across Market Street completely naked and sought refuge in a gas station. The clerk was shocked as Alexa hid behind a snack stand screaming.

"I was screaming 'Lady please lock the door! Lock the door! Please I just got attacked!'" she remembered.

"If you’re involved in this underworld already and then crimes are perpetrated on you, you’re raped, you’re assaulted, the first thing we say is ‘you exposed yourself to that. You opened yourself wide up to that. Well what did you think was going to happen?’" attorney and former ADA Lindsey Roberson said with frustration.

This is where comments like "they're two consenting adults" get thrown out the window. On the streets, the men know the women are not going to call the police to explain how their prostitution job went bad. 

Roberson agrees the women know the risks but is quick to remind anyone that there is no environment where as a community, we say rape is 'okay.'

"This guy kept me in his house for a few days and put a knife to my throat, raped me and beat on me," Nikki said without flinching.

"Rape, goes hand in hand with prostitution, goes hand in hand with drug using," Kasi explained.

Patty has been out of The Life for over a decade but can tell her story like it was yesterday.

"It was an abandoned house right on Dawson, there was glass all over the floor," she recalled. "He told me to turn around and he put a gun to the back of my head. He then took the money back from me and proceeded to make me lie down on the glass and have sex with me."

Patty did not fight back and she did not scream for help. 

"When he was done, he made me sit in the corner, took all my clothes and said if I moved he was going to shoot me in the back of the head," she said. "And I just justified as not getting paid for a job I did. I know that’s sick justification." 

Risk works both ways on the street and sometimes evidence of such gets posted on Backpage, men warning other men about set-ups.

Sometimes prostitutes will hold up a client with help from their pimp. Others will collect personal information about their client and use it as blackmail to get more money out of him.

"This is a dangerous game, a dangerous part of society," said NHCSO Detective Evan Luther. "You are meeting individuals behind closed doors and individuals are being lured into places where you don’t know whats behind that next door."

Other dangers are not as immediate but certainly as life-threatening, like STDs.

"We didn’t use condoms. I never carried them," Patty said. "I’m lucky I don’t have anything. There were people that I knew who had HIV on the streets, that I hung out with." 

"You're pretty much playing Russian roulette," Luther pointed out. "You don’t know what you are arriving to and you don’t know what you are leaving with."

It's astonishing to see how many men don't bring condoms or specifically asked not to use one. A prostitute typically has more than 1,000 sexual encounters every year.

The request is called "bareback" or BB on Backpage. According to the women, it's one of the biggest requests and often by married men.

"Sometimes they won't ask you ‘Can I go bare?’ because a lot of these girls wont do it," Nikki said. "So they’ll try to slip it off in the middle of doing it, that’s a problem I’ve been having lately."

"They’ll pay $180 for an hour and an extra $50 to $100 just to do bareback," said Karly. "You just hope and pray that you don’t get pregnant. If you do you better get $300 and go to the clinic."

It's hard to fathom how casually someone could explain all this, but the emotionless disposition is typically a coping mechanism. How else can you survive in this world unless you allow nothing to affect you? 

It does conjure up a deep hatred towards men in general, an issue that makes their transition out of The Life all the more difficult. While it takes "two to tango," the women still appear disturbed at the indifference with with they are treated.

Most have boyfriends who know little about what really goes on in the rooms, others know everything. But when you "work" in sex it becomes a job, one they find little interest in when it comes to their personal lives. It seems even being asked to do so, recreationally, becomes a source of resentment.

"Seeing the things dudes can do to their wife and lie and the life of a lie they can live, I don’t trust any man," Nikki said getting angry. "I don’t believe any man on this earth can be faithful. So I try to do to them before they can do to me."

Who are these men buying prostitutes? Where do they work and what do they say when vice agents put the handcuffs on? Click on "Johns" to read more.

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