Amber only recently came to terms with her history in the sex industry and how it impacted her life. Battling a heroin addiction in 2009, Amber got a job as a dancer in a Reno strip club in order to pay for her habit. For the next nine years, she says she took off her clothes for money every single day. Eventually, she began meeting with sex buyers outside the club.
“It gave me a purpose, going and getting ready and all dressed up. It was like I was finally needed and wanted in this environment. It wasn’t always horrible. It was often enjoyable, even though it wrecked me to my soul.”
As a child, Amber was extremely transient. She attended 20 different schools and moved 60 times by the time she was 18. She says what she lacked most in her 20’s was true friendship, and she believes that is what led her to become a victim of commercial sexual exploitation. In order to maintain good relationships at the strip club, Amber was forced to pay a portion of what she earned back to the owners.
“I sacrificed parts of myself that I didn’t want to because I thought I was in a safe environment. It was all very hush-hush in the club. The dancers all say they don’t do it, but I’m pretty sure everyone was involved in this. We had a lot of shame about it and so we didn’t talk about it.”
Amber says after she had children, sex work lost all of the glamour she had created about it in her mind. It became simply a job she felt forced to do in order to provide for her son and daughter. That’s when she left the business and decided to get sober and find work that didn’t make her feel so lonely inside.
“Awaken came to my church and I felt comfortable enough to share my story. Saying it out loud took away its power over me.”
Amber now attends frequent therapy groups at Awaken, and the organization helps her financially when times are hard. Through Awaken, she has found a sense of community and love that is healthy and fulfilling. She is nearly finished with her associates degree and plans to transfer to UNR soon to major in social work. She hopes one day she can integrate her education and all of her past experiences in order to help other women battling addiction.
“They may think they are making a choice, but they really don’t have a choice. They wouldn’t need drugs if they had a community like Awaken to lift them up.”
Since Awaken was founded in 2011, it has reached more than 700 women and children in the Northern Nevada community. Awaken’s mission is to increase awareness and education surrounding the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and to provide housing and restoration for its victims.
Thank you to all of the Awaken donors and supporters who have helped us reach this important milestone of ten years!