ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – In the special report “Children for Sale,” KMOX News recently took you inside the brutal world of the sex trade. By next summer, a St. Louis group hopes to give women a way out of prostitution and put more focus on men.
“It’s about changing the attitudes here that it’s okay to buy and sell sex,” explains Tricia Roland-Hamilton, the new Executive Director of Magdalene St. Louis.
Roland-Hamilton is preparing to open the group’s first home for former prostitutes by next summer. She says most are coming from a life of abuse and often have long arrest records. “They don’t typically finish their education. They don’t have any job skills. They’re typically addicted to heroin or crack.”
Special Report: Children For Sale
She hopes to hire a resident director who has graduated from the original program in Nashville, “who can be there for the women living in the home and serve as a community builder who knows what it’s like and who can just be that role model.”
Women will get counseling, job training, health care, and other services free for two years to give them a new start.
Magdalene in Nashville launched 13 years ago and has a 76 percent success rate for keeping women clean, sober, and off the streets. Another Magdalene home opened in New Orleans a year ago.
At the same time Magdalene St. Louis is focused on rescuing women from a life on the streets, Roland-Hamilton tells KMOX News she hopes to see higher arrest rates for the men who buy sex.
“Currently johns are not arrested in our city,” she says. “They typically are Caucasian, between the ages of 30 and 50, and they get by with this. They assault the women. They rape the women.”
But she says a case can be difficult to prove unless the men are caught in the act, which is why Roland-Hamilton is working with judges, prosecutors, and police to see what can be done to put more pressure on johns.
She also plans to launch what’s called a “john school,” a program that’s been successful at Magdalene in Nashville.
“They come away understanding this is not something the women enjoy. When they have to turn 20-25 tricks a night, that’s not enjoyable.”