I just found out my child is a prostitute

Dear Sex Educator,

I just found out my daughter is a prostitute and I’m not sure how to handle it. I have been using search engines to find anything related to the topic. I found and read your e-mail replies. I respect your work very much. Here’s the problem: I have four children, all are in college or just out. My wife and I provide a Christian home, church every Sunday, a combined income of $112,000. We have always made liberal allowances. All of our kids are intelligent, and get scholarships and good grades.

My third daughter is a beauty queen, a cheerleader, and gets the best grades and scholarships of bunch. She has the best boyfriend on her college campus that any girl could have. She is a junior in a college near a big city. I noticed she was not coming home for holidays, for full summers, etc. I asked her younger sister why, but she would not tell me, so I took it on myself to find answers. I went to her college and found that she was not registered as a full-time student. She only takes morning classes and those are not going toward a degree or graduation.

My daughter was not in her dorm, so I went looking for her. I asked several of her peers. They sent me to the city to a place called the “Sugar Shack,” a bordello for truckers. I found out that my beautiful daughter is a prostitute from two in the afternoon until midnight and even later on Friday and Saturday nights and holidays. I did not confront her or scold; I just asked her why she’s doing it. She shrugged her shoulders – seems she has been doing this since her freshman year of college. I asked what her goal was and she told me “go to Las Vegas and be a prostitute on the strip”.

Is there any literature on why girls do this? Any suggestions? I am at a loss. She will be 21 next fall and says she will leave for Las Vegas the day after that. Where did I fail her? She’s a very lovely girl, very sweet and caring, and with sooo much potential. She wants to throw it all for this. Why? Any bibliography and most importantly, advice, is welcomed. I lay awake at night each night trying to figure it all out. I love my little girl very much and want her to be happy. I am about to go nuts with this. Please help.

I want to address what you can do right now, for yourself and for your daughter. There is not much you can do to make her change her mind about the choices she is making. So I want you to focus on what you can do to feel more secure in yourself. This choice of hers is not necessarily a reflection of anything you did or did not do. She is an adult, and has made this choice as an adult. In fact, there is nothing you can do about anything that may have happened while she was growing up; all you can focus on is how you want your relationship with her to be in the future.

This is a very hard thing. She is doing something you don’t approve of, and she has (at least temporarily) made choices that mean you don’t get to see her do what you dreamed she would do. The first step is to grieve the loss of your dream of her, and get past your disappointment. It’s fine to cry, and be sad for the loss of your dream of what your child would be doing at this point in her life. So go ahead and grieve – it’s healthy, and will help you move on to what you can do to help this situation, at least for yourself.

The next step will be to figure out how you can have a relationship with her. She is doing something that can be quite risky for her. What she needs the most is acceptance and the knowledge that if she ever needs help or support, that you will be there for her. That may be very hard for you to offer; you don’t like the choice she’s made and you may be tempted to just let her face whatever negative consequences may arise from this choice. This approach will not help her to make different choices, and is most likely to cause a big rift between you. Because she is an adult now, you will need to treat her that way. If you must judge her, then find ways to keep your judgment to yourself. I applaud your approach of not scolding her, and indeed it may help to try to understand what this choice brings to her that makes it worth doing. Some women enjoy being prostitutes, and enjoy the power and money it brings to them, so her choice may be driven by some of those reasons.

Most prostitutes do not stay in prostitution past their mid-to-late 20s, so it will be important for her to have support in choosing another career when she needs one. The support of her family will be helpful. So if you can find it in your heart to forgive her for breaking your dreams for her, and for choosing something you may not understand or support, please try to do so. Forgiveness and calm acceptance will go a long way to keeping a relationship between the two of you possible.

Finally, please work on forgiving yourself. Even if you did do something that you feel distanced her from you, you did not push her to make this choice, nor is it likely that you are wholly responsible for her choosing a path different from the one you would choose for her.

Be sad, let go of your dreams for her for now, and most of all, let her know that you still love her and that she still has a home and a family. All of that will help the two of you keep your relationship, and allow her to come to you if she needs help.

The Sex Educator