AMY'S STORY: WHY I FIGHT FOR THOSE IN THE SEX INDUSTRY
Hello, my name is Amy Merrell, and I am a Cupcake Girl.
Two years ago, I received a call on our Cupcake Girls office phone from a woman who sounded frazzled. She explained that she wasn't sure if she was raped or not, but she needed to talk with someone.
A client of hers, who was a huge financial contributor to her, followed her out to her car after she worked at a club one night. He pushed her into her car and forced himself on her. She asked him to stop and he didn't. Afterwards, he said “thanks” and threw money on her. She was dumbfounded, confused, and felt completely alone. Luckily, she remembered seeing one of our business cards in her work dressing room and gave us a call.
By the time she had called, more than 24 hours had passed since the incident. I explained to her that yes, being forced to have sex against your will is rape, and encouraged her to be checked out by a professional. We met at a local hospital where a rape kit was completed and an officer came to ask a few questions. She was so scared to press charges because the man has been such a huge financial support to her for so long. But ultimately, she did.
After the hospital visit I was able to connect her with various resources such as a regular gynecologist through Oregon Health and Science University and a counselor through William Temple House. I met with her in our office space a few days later to follow up on how she was coping with everything. She took my hand and said "I'm just so thankful you were here, I was ashamed and didn't know who to call you really made me feel like I wasn't alone." She called me a week later, she is now enrolled to get her GED, and got a job at a local mall. She's so thankful and excited about the work that we're doing and she said over and over how much she's thankful for every Cupcake Girl.
This story and many like it are why The Cupcake Girls exist. We are a nonprofit, located in Las Vegas and Portland, that provides resources for those in the sex industry and survivors of domestic human trafficking.
You may be asking “Why the adult entertainment industry though? Why do they need help? Why do you help strippers? They make tons of money!” And yes, it's true, there are many Adult Entertainers that make a great living and are empowered by the work that they do. I’m even friends with a girl who was able to pay off her student loans in one year. However, those aren't the people who are reaching out for assistance.
The people who are usually reaching out for assistance from the Adult Entertainment Industry need a safer place to live. The people reaching out to us from the Adult Entertainment Industry have been sexually abused; some as adults, some as children, and some as both. The people reaching out to us from the Adult Entertainment Industry need consistent income. Many have multiple jobs already, kids to take care of, loans, debt, and medical expenses to pay for. The people reaching out to us need help, and trust me the numbers are substantial: over 1,500 since our inception; 571 in 2016 alone.
So, the next question naturally follows, "Why you Amy? Why do you want to spend your time helping strippers, sex workers, and porn stars?" I understand that I am probably not a likely person to take on this work. I am a mom to a two year old. I don't have a degree in social work. I actually work for an advertising agency full time. Truth be told, there are days when it seems too much. I can't tell you the number of times I've looked in the mirror and asked myself why I’m doing this, or sat on the phone crying to my Mom about yet another story of rape, domestic violence, sex trafficking, or overdose. I can't tell you how many times I thought that I couldn't handle it and I wasn't ready.
But the truth is, there really is nothing that can truly prepare you for this type of work. Nothing can prepare you for sitting in a hospital room with a woman as DHS comes in to take her baby that she gave birth to an hour before, and then helping her as she creates a plan to get sober so that she can regain custody. Nothing can prepare you for getting a phone call from a girl who is scared sitting in a parking lot with her toddler in her arms after she had just run away from her pimp. Nothing can prepare you for how incredibly heartbreaking yet absolutely amazing it is to be a Cupcake Girl.
We don’t try and pull people out of the sex industry, we don’t picket strip clubs in hopes of shutting them down, we don’t break down doors of brothels and rescue people working in them. We show up, respect people as human beings, start with a cupcake and then build trust and relationships. We provide tangible, life changing resources. Then we repeat.
If you are inspired by this story please take a moment to donate to Amy's Bowl for Justice campaign. The Bowl for Justice event is the Cupcake Girls' largest fundraiser of the year. Amy's current goal is to raise $15,000 for The Cupcake Girls. Please take a moment to make a difference by donating using the button below.