Helping Women Escape “The Life”

There can’t be a choice without options. This seems like an obvious statement, but it is one Nicole Tynan has continuously repeated, hoping her words eventually will have a positive impact.

“We have what we call this push-pull factor,” said Tynan, 28, of Appleton, Wisconsin. “The push factor for these women is their vulnerabilities — coming from dysfunctional backgrounds, foster care, domestic violence homes, sexual abuse. That’s like their gateway in.” The pull factor, she said, is the demand — the johns and pimps as well as economic factors like poverty that persuade a woman into thinking prostitution is a good option. Tynan tells these stories so well because she has lived them. “There’s nothing that I can’t tell them I haven’t done myself,” Tynan said. “But I feel that my past was worth it if I can help others. It’s the only thing that makes it worth it going forward.”

As an exploitation advocate at Reach Counseling in Neenah, Wisconsin, Tynan meets with women to help them transition out of the sex industry and get a fresh start. “I love watching the girls change,” she said. “I love seeing their growth and their progress, and you can tell over time — just from their attitudes and the things they say — the more mature they grow over time. And it’s almost like watching myself, because it’s like, ‘Oh, I remember when I had that sudden epiphany and changed my thinking.'”

Attempting to change people’s minds, including those who believe some prostitutes criminals, is the hardest part of her job. “I have a hard time of understanding how people can decide who deserves to be worthy of services and care and love, versus this woman who’s just a criminal and she chose this life,” Tynan said. “This girl is a victim, and yet this one isn’t.” While she understands some women may make an initial decision to get involved in the sex industry, it’s a different matter once they try to get out. “Once you enter in, there’s not really an option to exit.”

Learn more at Ariel Cheung‘s USA Today article: Former prostitute helps women escape ‘the life’.

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