Sometimes Prostitution is Not a Choice

In some ways, toward the end of day, the zone also feels washed with sadness. One monument is missing down here, one that should memorialize all those nameless women who came here to deal with loss. Down here, in the age of sail, wives and lovers often came to the shore to pray for the return of their seagoing men, many of whom never came back. They waited here for men who had gone off to war. Sometimes I can feel their melancholy presence and the sadder ghosts of those women who became reluctant prostitutes. With husbands gone or dead, they were forced in a hard world to do what they felt was necessary if they were to feed and shelter their children. Charity was elusive; there was no such thing as state welfare; jobs for women were almost nonexistent. So they accepted the stigma and the shame, trusting that God would be more forgiving than self-righteous human beings, and in all weathers they moved around the trees of the Battery. Across the 117 years of the British colony, they were here, servicing British officers and soldiers and various bewigged worthies. They were here long after the triumph of the American Revolution. They should be remembered too.

— Hamill, Pete (2004-12-01). Downtown: My Manhattan (pp. 32-33). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

In the 21st century in America, we live in a world where we can close our eyes to the realities that are present in many other countries today.

We forget that in our own cities in the 19th century, if a woman’s husband didn’t come back from an overseas journey, she was damned to a life of selling herself – just for the survival of herself and her children.

We forget that today, sex trafficking of women and minors is more widespread than ever, due to our mobility, our connectivity  and the increased wealth of the overall population.

To quote Barry McGuire again:

You may leave here for four days in space
But when you return it’s the same old place


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