While preparing for this investigative series about prostitution on Long Island, I heard three words I never thought I'd hear my boss utter. "Find a prostitute." After choking on my coffee a bit, I understood what he meant. The story needs that angle. The perspective of someone who sold their body. And to find out why they started, in the first place.
After doing exactly what I learned from the Nassau County Narcotics/Vice squad, I logged onto backpage.com, and started dialing. I was hung up on about 10 times. Laughed at countless more. But one woman stayed on the line long enough to listen to what I had to say, and what I wanted to find out. She agreed to talk to me about why she prostituted herself for years.
We had to conceal Tracy's identity. She lives at a hotel in Suffolk County and has an ad on backpage.com for escort services. She told us although she is not currently a prostitute, she did commit the crime for years. "I was out of control", she says. "Because if I wasn't out of control, I wouldn't have done it."
Tracy grew up in Florida. She says she was doing well at a government social services job, but her marriage fell apart and she started doing cocaine. She said she was "hiding" behind the drug. And to make money to fuel her habit and forget about her life at home, she started to prostitute herself. "At that point I was disgusted with men and I didn't wanna be in a relationship with one", she says. "And I knew I got what I wanted from them. Companionship, possibly sex and money."
Tracy's story is eerily similar to many other troubled women living on Long Island. Tracy tells us prostitution used to be a more discrete crime, but now, because of internet sites to advertise on, it's an easy way to get and keep clients. "The hooker standing around on the street corner in NY. That's not necessarily true these days," says Tracy. "There's a lot of girls who came from rough families, that are trying to get an education and trying to support themselves and go to college."
This interview was one of the most interesting ones I've ever conducted. It was an un-plugged look into the life of someone who knows they are doing something wrong, but may not be able to help it. Not once did Tracy make excuses for herself, but she did give insight and perspective into why and how women can get themselves in so deep they would sell themselves to get by.