Today’s in-depth, “Behind closed doors,” told the sordid tale of Casey, a former prostitute, in the context of the Madison Police Dept.’s crackdown on street prostitution, as well as a less-visible underground sex industry.
An instrumental part of the police effort, former South District neighborhood officer Susan Krause has developed relationships with many of the 50-plus prostitutes known to frequent in the West Badger Road area, the epicenter of a recent surge of prostitution sting operations.
Krause’s experience provides an insight into this lifestyle, which is commonly fueled by drug addiction and histories of abuse. Both factors played a role in Casey’s descent into prostitution.
The average prostitute doesn’t fit any particular racial or demographic profile, and in 2007, Krause dealt with women between the ages of 15 and 60.
“If there’s a common denominator, it’s some type of pretty extreme sexual abuse or violence suffered as a child,” Krause explained.
Mental health issues stemming from childhood trauma often lead these women to self-medicate with crack cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines, she said. To finance their drug abuse, they turn to prostitution.
“They’re up for four to five days in a row, using and turning tricks,” she added. “Then they’ll crash and sleep and eat.”
Jan Miyasaki, director of the local prostitution outreach program Project Respect, agreed with Krause’s assessment of the prostitute’s state of mind and history of childhood sexual abuse.
“Over time, she becomes vulnerable to future assaults,” Miyasaki said. “She’s seasoned early on to believe that’s her purpose in life.”
Eventually, the woman enters a vicious cycle of drugs and prostitution, often with the aid of a drug dealer or prostitute.
Prostitution often involves at least two people in “some kind of hustle,” Miyasaki said. “The single woman making a lot of money for herself is kind of a myth.”
Krause said most of the prostitutes she encounters are self-employed, although they often “hang together.”
The price of a sex act is often based on negotiation and the prostitute’s need for a quick fix.
“It can range from a pack of cigarettes to if somebody comes in from out of town with a check,” Krause said. “One guy had a government check for $200 he was going to sign over for a good time in Madison.”
An hour spent cruising through the West Badger Road neighborhood this winter didn’t elicit any solicitations by prostitutes. One woman yelled, “Keep driving!” as the car slowed down.
But prostitutes can be found almost any time of year, Krause said. In the winter, they’ll wear a heavy coat.
“It’s 24-7, all year, because that addiction never quits,” Krause said.