Meet Alecia – 2019 Women involved in Prostitution Series
Mistake – [mi-steyk] – Noun – An error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgement caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.
Regret – [ri-gret] – Verb – To feel sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault, disappointment, etc.).
Hope – [hohp] – Noun – The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.
Future – [fyoo-cher] – Noun – Time that is to be or come hereafter; a condition, especially of success or failure, to come.
A common reaction that somebody may have when they do wrong by themselves or by another person is to let the regret consume them. In extreme cases, this regret may in fact manifest itself into internally and externally directed hatred.
Although it may be easier to allow regret, self-loathing, and hatred consume all other emotions, sometimes we must take the hard road.
Through referral by REAL LIFE Community Center in Richmond, VA, I received the opportunity to interview a woman whose story was unique and amazing. Captivating all ends of the spectrum: mistake, regret, hope, and future.
Alecia sat across from me wearing a bright blue blazer. She looked professional, and if the words didn’t come from her own mouth, I never would have suspected that the story of the life she was about to tell me was in fact, her own.
Alecia was born and raised in Richmond, VA. She attended high school locally, and at the age of sixteen, began experimenting with marijuana during high school. After high school, Alecia went on to attend J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, where she majored in Business Administration and was on the Dean’s List several times for her academic achievements. It was during her years in community college, when Alecia decided to take her experimentation even further.
Between the ages of 18 and 20, Alecia started using and abusing crack cocaine and heroin. Before long, she was a fully blown addict, ingesting the substances in any way she was able.
The next twenty years became a whirlwind of blackouts, incarceration, and drug abuse. Like many other addicts, Alecia soon turned to prostitution to finance her drug habit. At this point in the interview, I inquired a bit further on her experience in prostitution. Was she ever forced to prostitute herself out to her dealers or others? And although she denied ever having been “sex trafficked,” she acknowledged that many of the women she met during her time on the streets lived a life of forced prostitution and could have very well been victims of human trafficking.
At this time of her life, Alecia was the mother of three children, and it was not long before they were taken from her and placed into foster care. Soon after, she began the cyclical lifestyle of incarceration and criminality. It would be years before Alecia was able to have any legitimate relationship with her children again.
During her twenty-year bender, Alecia was arrested and formally charged multiple times for prostitution and possession of illegal narcotics. In 2011, she was charged with felony assault. Along with all of these criminal charges, Alecia also contracted Hepatitis-C from dirty heroin needles.
Alecia’s life now became entrenched in self-loathing and depression. She had no savings, no children, and had subsequently dropped out of college because of her drug habit. Many would have given up at this point, but not Alecia.
After being released from incarceration following her 2011 felony assault charge, Alecia decided to make a life change. It had been over twenty years since she had been sober and clear headed, and she felt that maybe that is exactly what she needed.
Alecia picked herself up and attended the Virginia workforce alliance, where she graduated in 2012. Her studies while in the workforce provided her with future aspirations of working in professional peer support. Alecia soon became an active member of the Richmond community, where she works firsthand as an advocate through the R.O.O.T.S organization, fighting recidivism within vulnerable populations, particularly with individuals who are fighting cyclical incarceration, addiction, homelessness, and other personal struggles. Alecia acts as a Virginia court-watch, and personally advocates for defendants who may be receiving unfair treatment within the criminal justice system due to their race or socioeconomic background.
Through her time working and observing courtroom procedures, Alecia felt it was in her own best interest to write a letter to the governor requesting a pardon on her 2011 felony assault charge, as she feels that her criminal record is currently keeping her from improving both professionally and personally.
In addition to her professional-level work, Alecia is a frequent churchgoer, works with several catholic charities throughout the commonwealth, is a radio-personality, and plans on navigating the ropes of completing the required training programs so that one day, she may own her own business.
If the story narrated above wasn’t enough to surprise, what I witness at the end of our interview was astonishing. As we were leaving the REAL LIFE community center, I witnessed her in action. There was a man lying down on the side of the building, bundled up. I could not tell if he was strung-out off drugs or if he was simply tired, cold, and homeless. Regardless of his physical state, Alecia put her belongings down and proceeded to sit next to him. An elderly lady in a bright blue suit, sitting on the site of the Richmond City street in late afternoon, next to a man slumped over, covered in rags and blankets.
She asked him if he was alright, and he grunted. She asked him if he could walk, and he grunted. She sighed, stood up, went inside, and came out with a cup of coffee. After some persuasion, the man took the coffee and sat upright. The two exchanged words for a few minutes, and I could not catch all of it. What I do know, however, is that whatever Alecia said, it was the right thing. The man eventually stood up and followed her inside the community center.
As I walked home, I immediately called my girlfriend and told her about the amazing “comeback” story I had just heard, and what I had just witnessed.
There are some things in this life, that one does not forget.
I will not forget Alecia.
Junior at Virginia Commonwealth University
Major: Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness