SEATTLE -- There are hundreds of sex workers in the city of Seattle every day and as the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is looking at cracking down on the johns, they are also trying to help the victims who need it.
But some choose to be a sex worker.
“There are a lot more of us than you think,” said Caroline McLeod, a sex worker. “I am happy doing this. This is what I’m choosing to do."
McLeod is 43 and a single mother of two. And, for the last eight years, she's been a sex worker.
“It is illegal and I’m doing it and it's all good, for me,” said McLeod.
Almost a decade ago, McLeod made a choice.
“So I made a leap of faith and it’s been fabulous,” said McLeod.
McLeod got tired of her long workweek at a startup tech job while her daughter spent the day in day care.
She said she needed to find a way to provide for her kids and be there as they grew up.
“That was not how I wanted to live my life or how I wanted to parent my children. So, I thought there’s that weird option that I never really considered and I think I’ll actually consider it now,” laughed McLeod.
However, McLeod doesn’t look for her clients on the street and she doesn’t come from an abusive home like so many of the women who turn to street prostitution.
It’s sort of the opposite for her. She grew up in a privileged home and attended four years of college and even had a career until she started entertaining clients in a separate apartment she rents.
“By far the most common reason about why they come to see sex workers is that they love their wives (and) they don’t want to get a divorce. They don’t want to start dating anyone, but their wives have gotten to a certain age and declared themselves done with sex, but they (the husbands) haven’t,” said McLeod.
McLeod believes she helps society with what she does.
“Absolutely, actually in most cases I don’t think there’s a downside to what I do, which is not to say there aren’t problems with some forms of sex work,” said McLeod.
She says she’s never been hurt or had problems with any of her clients, but many women in the sex trade do get roughed up. In fact, law enforcement has shifted its focus to combat prostitution.
“It is our focus to help those who are being exploited. The fact that they report choosing this doesn’t diminish the fact that many other people in prostitution experience substantial harm,” said Valiant Richey, senior King County deputy prosecutor.
Richey said his office is focusing on prosecuting johns and not the sex workers. They’re hoping to help some of these women escape the life.
“Someone may report doing this consensually but many do not. The buyer has no idea whether the person he’s paying to have sex with is consenting or not,” added Richey.
“I am happy doing this. This is what I’m choosing to do. I have other options and I have other skills,” said McLeod.
She wants to break the stigma associated with sex workers and is hoping that someday what she does will become ‘legal’.
“Because I’m sure that what I’m doing is right and righteous and good and there were times in our history where lots of things were illegal and we look back at those times with great embarrassment,” said McLeod.
Making it legal doesn’t look likely anytime soon. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said it would like to see tougher laws and increased penalties against johns.
Even though McLeod chooses to do this line of work, there are many others who have no choice. Resources are available for those who want it and are looking to get out of that life. seattleagainstslavery.org is one website that provides resources for those who want it.