INDIANAPOLIS — Leaving the sex trade industry can be extremely challenging, but a new partnership in the community is providing support to women who have decided to get out.
"I felt like I was drowning and I didn't know how to get out," A woman — who we won't identify — described her years working at a strip club as a trap.
"At first I was drawn to the industry because it was a party," she said. But eventually, that party became her lifestyle.
"Using my sexuality as a tool to be powerful, in my own eyes, was a way to kind of numb out," the woman said.
The former exotic dancer had a child to provide for. "I have a flexible schedule because childcare was so expensive and it became more of a surviving," she said. "I'm just doing this to stay afloat at this point."
Unconditional Ministries is a non-profit that helps empower and support women in the sex industry. The organization says people often get involved with adult entertainment, pornography, or prostitution for one of three reasons: choice, circumstance, or coercion.
"For some women, their friends or family have cut them off because of their occupation," Sarah Daniel, Unconditional Ministries CEO and Founder, said, which is where the organization steps in.
"We go to six different clubs, and we reach about 175 people every month," Daniel said.
For seven years, club owners across Indianapolis have allowed Unconditional Ministries to come in, bring gift bags to dancers and offer help or friendship if they need.
"I've met a lot of women who have been on their own since they were 14 to 17-years-old," Daniel said. "And then people want to judge them for being in the industry when really they're a survivor. They've made ends meet, they've done whatever they've had to do to make it."
Now, Unconditional Ministries is partnering with Trace Fashion, a sustainable fashion company that creates comfortable workwear for women. The partnership will help provide more job opportunities for those who have decided to step away from the industry.
While taking classes on mental wellness and financial stability, these women will work in marketing and distribution to give them work experience that they can put on their resume.
"You probably made good money when you were working," Daniel said. "And so now you're dealing with going from making very decent money to now poverty level once you've left."
Leaving the industry can be very complicated — but if there's one thing that isn't, it's that having someone who believes in you is crucial.
At this time, Unconditional Ministries and Trace Fashion need more funding to provide full salaries for these women. if you would like to get involved, visit unconditionalministries.com.