Both Sides Of Boston's Sex Trade Offer A Glimpse Of 'The Life'

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Audrey Morrissey is the associate director at My Life My Choice. She spent 13 years in the sex trade before becoming a mentor to at-risk girls in Greater Boston. (Courtesy of My Life My Choice)
Audrey Morrissey is the associate director at My Life My Choice. She spent 13 years in the sex trade before becoming a mentor to at-risk girls in Greater Boston. (Courtesy of My Life My Choice)

Part 2 of a two-part series. Here's Part 1.

BOSTON — Audrey Morrissey spent years "in the life" -- as she put it -- working as a prostitute.

"Well, it happened through my daughter’s father," the now-52-year-old recently recounted. "I was a teen mother, I got pregnant at 15, had my daughter at 16. Um, was in love, infatuated, he was my whole world, my everything. Evidently, I wasn't his whole world or his everything."

Morrissey said her entry into the sex trade was a gradual process.

"[Her daughter's father] had a cousin that was a pimp, we used to ride around a place called the Combat Zone, and his cousin had his girls working," she said. "I pretty much thought I was just hanging with the fellas until I was asked to, um -- he asked me, would I go out on the corner, and make money and, you know, we’ll live happily ever after."

But it was hardly happy.

Morrissey's very first encounter was with a cop, who flashed his badge and threatened to arrest her if she didn't perform oral sex.

She stayed in the business -- even after her boyfriend was jailed. Over the years she worked Combat Zone clubs and got strung out on heroin.

"I was going to die here, there was nowhere else for me to go," she recalled thinking. "And through the time, I remember I met another guy who came into the club, one of the clubs that I was working in. I was 20, he was about 36, and he said some sweet things. I ended up with him and that was another roller coaster ride. When I left, I was just a heroin addict."

'I Was Totally Irrational'

On the other end of the sex transaction are the buyers.

We interviewed one former buyer, and out of his concerns for his career, we agreed to refer to him by the initials "S.S." He's married -- though in the middle of divorce — Caucasian, 65, and has a white-collar job.

So he's close to the profile, one study shows, of the most prolific online sex buyers: white, married and earning an average annual income of more than $140,000 a year.

S.S. said he became sexually addicted through pornography before he began paying for sex. He said he frequently purchased sex for more than four years. His life was chaotic.

"I wasn't present," he said. "A lot of times when these experiences occurred, it was like out-of-body experiences. I was totally irrational."

When asked whether he ever wondered whose daughter, sister or mother he was engaging with in these sexual contracts, S.S. had a quick response: "The answer is, categorically, almost never."

He continued: "I wish that I could have a good answer [for why]. I think that this was about my own gratification and really about very little else. I'm embarrassed to say, I'm ashamed to say that, but that was the case."

He's unsure whether he ever engaged in sexual activity with underage girls, but he does not rule out the possibility.

"I have some suspicions about a couple of encounters that may have involved that, but I certainly don't know that," he said.

From 'The Life' To Mentoring

Experts say it's difficult to know how many minors are sold in the sex trade. A recent report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice acknowledged a lack of data.

In Massachusetts, a 2012 Suffolk County report offers a snapshot: It documented more than 480 child victims of sexual exploitation in the Boston area received support services between 2005 and 2012.

But those were children who found help -- not those who remain under the radar.

Another survivor of the sex trade in Boston, "LaLa" was not yet 16 when she was first brought into "the life." (We agreed to refer to her as LaLa to protect her career.)

"It originally started because I had lots of vulnerabilities, lots of insecurities," she said. "And so when boys would say nice things to me or tell me how I pretty I was, that kind of was like the lure for me."

LaLa eventually left home and moved in with a drug-dealer boyfriend. He later moved out and left LaLa in need of money. A woman who would become her pimp told her she could make $100 by doing, as LaLa put it, "X, Y and Z." That was her introduction to the sex trade.

"I needed money and I didn’t know how to get a job," LaLa said. "I didn’t have any skills, I didn't know what else to do. So, I went online and I started selling myself there. I thought it was the only thing I was good at."

She thought the online transaction would leave her in control. But LaLa said she was beat up,  jumped and raped while working in the sex trade.

Both LaLa and Audrey have escaped that life. LaLa left after just a few years, while Audrey was in for 13 years.

Both women now mentor at-risk youth, mainly young women, through the Boston anti-trafficking group My Life My Choice, where they speak to girls about the dangers of being lured in.

"We’re letting [girls] know, this is what happened to me and it doesn't change, because when I was in the life -- I don't know, eight, nine years ago -- it’s still the same kind of predators, and the same kind of trauma and the same kind of abuse," LaLa said.

Coercion is a common theme in the sex industry.

It was only a short time ago, while in a therapy session, that S.S. realized that not all of his paid-sex partners were likely willing.

He said there is a certain memory that now haunts him from time to time.

"The one that comes to mind was one that involved a woman from China, who didn't speak very good English, who kept going back and forth between the room that we were in and another room, after she had taken my money, and was very concerned," he said. "And I said, 'You know, we don't have to do this, we can stop, you know, just give me my money back and I'll leave.' She said, 'No, no,' and we went ahead. But as soon as it happened, I left and I blocked it out and I never thought about it again."

He describes himself as a recovering sex addict. He said he's "sexually sober," having been sexually abstinent for the past four years. He credits working with a therapist and a 12 step-program for his abstinence.

He considers himself fortunate he didn't have any run-ins with the law.

"I'm very fortunate that that did not occur. But it wasn't because of something I did, I just got lucky," he said.


This segment aired on August 14, 2015.


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