From living the high life to fighting for change
How a Las Vegas nightclub owner left the sex industry

Tanya was involved in the sex industry for 22 years. She owned her own sex agency and nightclub, lived in Las Vegas, and made a lot of money. But about four years ago, everything changed.

 

Twelve-year-old Tanya fled her dysfunctional home and ended up on the streets of Vancouver. She almost immediately became exploited through the sex trade; it was essential to her survival.

A few years later, Tanya went to Calgary to work the streets there. She was amazed at how quickly the money came — it wasn’t long before she was making $2,000 a day.

As the years progressed, so did her income. “You’re running around like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, and you’re so caught up in the idea of what Hollywood and the media has projected on TV, and what you think you’re supposed to do,” Tanya says.

She eventually ended up in Las Vegas, and lived there for 10 years. She opened up a sexually exploitive nightclub and agency, and fought for the legalization of prostitution.

But in 2011, her 22nd year in the industry, Tanya decided to go back home to Alberta for a visit. When she arrived, she was told she could no longer leave the country. She was left with nothing, and had to depend on government assistance and community supports. That’s when she met Maureen, a CEASE staff member.

“Something in my head said, everything happens for a reason, and this woman’s in my life for a reason,” Tanya says. “And I trust her and I’m going to listen to her.”

Tanya has since left the sex industry, and despite struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, is in her second year of a marketing degree. CEASE has provided Tanya with educational resources, counselling, and financial assistance. But what she most values is its unconditional emotional support. “They were that shoulder [to] cry on, because nobody else would listen.”

Once Tanya graduates, she hopes to be able to use her experiences and education to influence government policy. “I have to continue this fight to make sure that these things don’t happen to my daughter or her friends, or anybody I know.”