San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution
Final Report 1996

Prostitution Task Force
Sex Workers' Issues Testimony Meeting-Nellie Velasco

I am 18 years old, and I'm an outreach worker and peer educator at Street Survival Project, and I can relate to Gloria's definition of survival sex. I came to this city on my own, and not really being able to find any sense of community in the gutter punk scene.

I just couldn't hang with everyone else. I thought that being in San Francisco, I would be able to come out about liking girls, but that wasn't the case, and I still felt like I couldn't be a part of things, so I went out on my own, hoping that I could do something else.

There was very much limitation, aside from all the other stigmatism, there is also being under age, not being able to get a job because you have to have your parent's signature on the permit saying you are in school and living with your folks, and I didn't have that.

I couldn't get a job, and I couldn't get a place. I was just stuck. And that's how it is right now for a lot of youth that are on their own. It's fine if you do want to get off the street, and fine if you want to stay on, but having the choice is a lot harder if you legally can't get a job without having your family involved in it. So I was living on the streets in the Haight, and getting propositioned when I decided to do it because I didn't feel like there was any other choice at that time.

I didn't mind that much. It was kind of like the guys at school and everything, so it wasn't that big of a deal. And I did get raped and it felt like it was the same thing that all the other girls on the street were talking about. I had one friend, and he reacted the same as I expected if I had gone to an authority figure. He said I'm hustling and I should expect that. And it made me feel...well, I didn't feel like I could talk to anyone about it.

I started going to the clinic for STD check ups because I was really worried, and I didn't know a lot about protection, and I wanted to be really honest with them and I wanted to have someone to talk to so I didn't feel so alone. Because I didn't really know any other girls who were doing it when I was, and I wasn't living with anybody else. I was just living on the sidewalk, and once in a while I would meet somebody, but for the most part I was on my own as a kid.

When I would go to these appointments for check ups, I would look for something more, and I would get yelled at for what I was doing more so than an adult. It's like along with all these other things that are supposed to be morally wrong, being a youth and even having sex at all, is such a taboo. I think it sucks.

Alot of the things that bothered me when I started meeting people was that there was a lot of guys who didn't consider themselves to be bisexual or gay or questioning, but they were, once in a while when they needed money, doing survival sex. And they wouldn't go to a clinic and say, yeah, I'm having sex with guys too. They would say No, I'm straight. So most of the time the doctors wouldn't educate them on how STDs and HIV takes place with a man and a man because they didn't say they were having sex with men.

Alot of them didn't get an education in that way, because of not wanting to say that, not feeling like it was a part of themselves, and it could also be that...I feel that alot of health educators impose alot of judgment on you when you go in to see them. At least the free ones do. And it feels like they are doing you a favor by seeing you, and not having you pay money. And you just kind of have to do what they say.

I talk to other youth organizations about what they do in terms of hustling, and I hear that they have this that and the other, and have support groups and whatever, but it doesn't feel like anyone does a whole lot for youth who are doing this. They just act judgmental, and that doesn't help a lot of people and makes them feel worse.

Maybe there are communities, and organizations in some parts of town, but for the most part, it feels like you are on your own. Except that you also have to deal with not having parents and it feels weird for friends that are hustling and getting pimped by their parents. And that's just a whole other situation, because you do get turned back to your parents after foster care, and what if it is your parents who are fucking you? It does seem like its even more of a power trip than if you were an adult, when you are getting pimped, because it's not just a guy or a girl, but it's somebody older than you that you feel should know better than you, and you want to respect, and you want to be able to call them your mother or your father or your street mom, or your street dad, or whatever, but inside you can't really do that because you have this resentment, wanting them to know better.

It feels like alot of the youth programs out there send you back to your mom and dad. They seem to presume that it's better with your family than it is out in the streets, and a lot of times it's not better. Alot of times it's worse what's going on in your family, than it is no matter what you're doing.

I feel like there's alot of misconceptions about prostitutes, thinking that it's not okay for younger kids to do it, but it's okay for adults to. I mean I myself don't think it's okay for every 14 or 15 year old to be hustling. I think it depends on the person, but it's hard when you think people you might be able to talk to, who might be able to understand what you're going through, still have these judgments against you.

Another of the things that our outreach group, Street Survival Project, is talking about, is having informational flyers about youth, if you are going to get arrested and what your legal rights are as a youth if you're hustling, and if you're not. To have educational approaches available to youth, like what's available for homeless people, so they can know how to even talk to people about it.

It seems like a lot of clinics are going through finding out how to approach people in terms of if they are gay, lesbian or bisexual, but it seems like they should figure out how to do the same thing about hustling and about the right way to approach people, not to put on this whole, you're-a-whore kind of attitude.

Also having any sort of drop in center. I have heard in one country there is a van where prostitutes can just get in and drink coffee, and get information and talk with one another. I think that would be something that would be really good for all of us to have. I wish there was a support group for us to get together.

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