What's it like to speak at john school as a sex trafficking survivor?
Jenny Gaines was trafficked for nearly 30 years. Now, she's an advocate at Breaking Free in St. Paul.
She regularly speaks at john school.
"I act like they were my actual clients. I use the word 'you.' 'When you did this to me …' So that it hits home for them," Gaines said.
"They actually think women in prostitution are making a career choice and that we like it. They don't understand what they're buying into," Gaines said.
She tells the johns what she was really thinking.
"I always wanted to tell them the truth but I can't. Then they don't want to spend money with me," she said. What does she say?
"The money was never enough."
"I'll never forget."
"They ask, what can you do to make me feel good?" Her answer: "Hurry the f*ck up and get off of me."
She tells them how prostitution affected her four children. Her stories can elicit powerful reactions.
"I've seen a couple of them cry. A lot of time, they hold their head down. One time I did question-and-answer afterwards. They asked some really good questions. They seem to be receiving the information. I could tell that when I left there, I left them with something to think about," Gaines said.
Still, the experience takes its toll.
"You relive everything when you talk about it. Feelings like guilt and shame come up. And regret. A lot of regret," she said.
"The first time that I was asked to speak at john school, I thought, 'it's no big deal, yeah I'll do it.' I got up there and could only say a couple words. I started crying and couldn't finish. The advocate finished for me," Gaines said. But she is now training other women to tell their stories.
"I go through a lot of emotions before I do it. I'm nervous about speaking in front of people. These aren't people, these are johns. I'm just wondering if I knew any of them, if they've seen my picture on the internet before," Gaines said.
After a while, she noticed something else.
"I actually started healing when I was speaking," she said.
With her mom, Gaines wrote curriculum for a group of women who wanted to share their stories.
"I want to get these women to speak eventually at john school, so they're not thrown in cold turkey," Gaines said. "I also want to prepare these women for the emotions they're going to experience afterwards so they're really informed about their decision to speak. We don't want anyone to be retraumatized."
She thinks the john school impacts the attendees.
"It awakens them," Gaines said. "We do evaluations before and after. A lot of them are totally opposite. That means they changed their minds."
She tells them:
"After today, you know better. And now do better. You need to find something else to do with our brokenness," Gaines said. "It's not easy for the women to get out of. It is easy for you to say, I'm not going to do that anymore."