Inspiration behind 'The Life'

Inspiration behind 'The Life'
A prostitute pulls up her sleeve to reveal track marks from heroin use. (Source: WECT)
A prostitute pulls up her sleeve to reveal track marks from heroin use. (Source: WECT)

Shooting for The Life began in the fall of 2015, but the story started evolving during the production of WECT's last documentary, In Vein. Courtland Rogers, a recovering addict, said it almost in passing.

"Girls, they don’t have to go out to rob, they have another way of buying drugs if you know what I mean," he said, alluding to prostitution.

When we spoke off-camera to some female addicts, it became very clear that wherever you have a drug problem you have two currencies to fund it: cash or sex.

"Drugs and prostitution go hand in hand," said Karly, a streetwalker in Wilmington.

Months ago, Cheryl Groves offered to give us a tour of where those worlds collided. Cheryl has dealt with addiction in her own family and has volunteered for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition. As an advocate for addicts she routinely hand delivers Naloxone kits. Naloxone is a drug that will temporarily reverse a heroin overdose, giving time for help to arrive.

"It breaks my heart," Groves said as we headed out to Market Street. "There are women out there working the streets right now that have children, and the grandparents or a sister or a foster care is raising their children right now because they're out there selling their bodies to get money, to buy drugs. People do not realize the domino effect that this has on the whole family, on the community."

Groves delivers wherever the addicts are. Naloxone in hand, we watched her approach women walking the streets. Most were very receptive to her and had heard about Naloxone.

"What I see on Market is just heartache, just a wasteland of life," Groves explained. "I see people that deserve to live and live healthy."

That night, it seemed that as fast as Groves could get back on the road she was pulling back over again after spotting another woman.

"If somebody goes into an overdose, there's two clean syringes," Groves instructed one streetwalker as we watched from a distance. "In this bag there's two vials of Naloxone. It brings them out of an overdose. It's what the EMT's use and it's legal to carry in the state of North Carolina. There's a brochure in there that shows you how to administer it."

Drug overdoses are the second leading cause of death for prostitutes. In some cases, what started as payment for a fix, becomes a dependence on the clients willing to pay for her skin. Or what started as a fast way to make cash, becomes a dependence on the dope used to numb the reality.

"There's only two choices once you land on Market," said Groves about the women prostituting there. "You're going to prison or you're going to die."

As the women walked off, back onto the sidewalk, there was no way of knowing whether they would use the Naloxone or throw it away. The simple act of offering it was at least a step in the right direction and one of the few efforts made to change the scene.

"That was awesome," Groves said as she hopped back in the car. "She said she was just talking about this today and knows some people who could use them."

Addiction is just one piece of what's known as The Life, the world of prostitution.

Check out raw video, slideshows and an in depth look into The Life at

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. Watch them unfold on WECT Wednesday, April 27 at 10 p.m. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.

Programming note: Chicago PD can be viewed or recorded April 28 at 3 a.m. This episode of Chicago PD is a repeat broadcast that originally aired in February.

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