My life is my ceremony: indigenous women of the sex trade share stories about their families and their resiliency.




Pooyak, Sherri

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The current discourse on women who work in the sex trade is often viewed through a lens based on “victim and abuse” (Gorkoff and Runner, 2003, p. 15) positioning them as being helpless, needing to be rescued and reformed in hopes they will become upstanding citizens. Constructing a resilient identity of Indigenous women who have had involvement in the sex trade aims to shed new light on the identities of a population who are often portrayed negatively. One of the ways this reconstruction can be done is to focus on their familial relationships, thereby challenging the existing discourse that often blames the families of women in the sex trade as reasons for their involvement. Using narrative analysis, this qualitative study focused on the lives of five Indigenous women who have had involvement in the sex trade. The purpose of this study was twofold: First was to gain an understanding of the familial relationships of Indigenous women who have had involvement in the sex trade; second was to gain an understanding of how these relationships have contributed to their resiliency. The Indigenous women who participated in this study shared stories of their familial relationships highlighting the supportive and constructive aspects derived from their familial relationships. Secondly, they discussed the economic violence that found them making a constrained choice to engage in the sex trade as a means of survival. Thirdly, they spoke of how their familial relationships created family bonds, their connections to their families, and described their families as a source of strength, courage, and unconditional love, which positively contributed to their resilience. The fourth theme challenges the victim and abuse paradigm, as their narratives of resilience reveal how these women have sought to construct new identities and outlines the struggles they have encountered in their efforts to develop these new identities.



Prostitution, Canada, Teenage prostitution, Native peoples