My name is Ernestine. I am 45 years old and a native of Denver. I have a sister, and a brother who died a few years ago from cancer. My parents were both alcoholics. My dad was very handsome and worked construction. We always had food and clothes on our backs. He loved us the best he could but alcohol got in the way. My mother was very beautiful and a homemaker. Sometimes she worked in nursing homes for extra money. She died of lung cancer a year ago. They both tried to take care of us but they did not know how to love. They did not know how to nurture because their parents did not nurture them. Sometimes even comments that were probably meant to be funny felt hurtful. I was born breech and “my mother tells me I have always been a pain in the ass because I was born ass first.” I felt like that was always thrown in my face.
I don’t remember much of my childhood. I do remember my uncle sexually abusing me. My mom and grandma knew about it. “They walked in as I was pulling up my pants coming from the backroom and my uncle was back there. I was coming out as they were walking in, and I was zipping my little shorts up.” I was eight or nine. It wasn’t stopped because I don’t think my mom wanted to believe it happened. He was her brother.
I learned how to use men better while in prison. While in jail I met a man through The Oyster, a magazine that guys pick up in liquor stores and find women in their ads. Female prisoners write a little bit about themselves and if the men like you, then they start writing. This man started writing and taking care of me in jail. He bought me all types of beauty products, clothes, etc. and put money in my commissary account. He started to come see me in jail. He made me feel totally great. When I got out of jail, I went into a half-way house. He told me that if I left the half-way house, he would get me an apartment, marry me, and take care of me. He was a trucker and very abusive. I later found out that he was an escaped convict who was wanted for attempted murder, kidnapping, and firearm trafficking. I only knew him by an alias name. The FBI eventually busted him in our home. I was crushed. “I said Prince Charming ain’t real. He ain’t coming through.”
I was very vulnerable after he was arrested. I went to live with my parents, started using cocaine, and drinking a lot. I met my second (common law) husband through my uncle, the one who abused me. His name was William and he was a crack head. I did not know about his drug addiction. He ended up in jail but he liked me and took care of me even from jail.
Two of my children have many of the same issues that I have had in life. My daughter is a prostitute and one of my sons has some of the same emotional problems I do. I don’t want to be in this business any more. I am ready to be done. I am not happy in my life. I am at a low point and I have to make a change. My mom passing away made me feel alone and without support. I always depended on her. Now that she is not here, my kids really need me. They don’t have anyone else. It is important for me to change for them, but right now I am ready to change for me mostly. I am spending a lot of time by myself, drinking, listening to music, and crying. I work the streets to make enough money to pay the bills and take care of my needs.
It is July 2015 and I am on a waitlist for a recovery/safe house. I WILL get in. I NEED to get in.
Sex is a big thing to me. I’m addicted to not so much to money like I told you. I’m addicted to taking stuff from men more than anything because my uncle did it to me. He took something from me that can never be replaced…I get to be in control because I got what they want, what they need.
This program will help me understand why I do the things I do and why I feel the way I do. I don’t regret my life. I did enjoy some of it. This life is who I am and what I lived. It’s me.
December 2015 update: Ernestine was crossing a busy street when a drunk driver hit her and continued driving. Ernestine did not survive. A witness followed the vehicle, called 911, and was able to give a license plate number. The driver was arrested and has multiple felony charges pending. The driver had a long history (dating back to the 80's) of driving under the influence, had his license suspended multiple times, and previous jail time for vehicle related charges. This is a sad ending for Ernestine at the hands of someone who was inconceivably behind the wheel of a vehicle and who obviously has no deference for human life. Neither his own nor others.
I liked science in school and sometimes I got awards. I think outer space is fascinating and I like to learn all I can about it. I wanted to go to the moon when I was a little girl. Otherwise, I did not do well in school.
When I was about 13 or 14 years old, the much older next door neighbor offered me money for sex. I really didn’t know what I was doing but then he gave me money and that made me feel better. I consider that to be my first trick. I had my first daughter when I was 15 years old.
I don’t remember any positive influences in my childhood. My childhood is how God made it and I don’t believe God makes junk. I started pot, alcohol, and LSD when I was 15. I didn’t graduate high school. I was embarrassed because I was in special Ed. I have tried to get my GED and it is just not going to happen. I was diagnosed with early dementia and a bi-polar disorder. I don’t like all the meds prescribed for me. The only medication I think worthwhile is Ativan because it helps with anxiety, so does alcohol. That is why I drink.
My first four children were with my high school sweetheart. We were together for five years. We lived with his parents. He did not work, so I shoplifted with his mother. I went to prison for six months when I was 18 years old on a case that involved $38,000 of stolen jewelry.
William and me were together for 7 years and we had two children together. We moved to Pennsylvania for three years and then to St. Louis. I went to jail for 5 years when I was 25. We weren’t married after I got out of jail.
I soon married my third husband and had two more children. He didn’t have a job but I worked the streets and ‘backpages’ to support us (Backpage.com allows sex worker ads). I preferred the street jobs to the backpage jobs. Street jobs are quick with very little fuss and interaction. We were together for 14 years and broke up just few months ago.
What do you want other people to know about you?
My strengths are my beauty, positive attitude, honesty, and integrity. “I love my integrity.” I have a lot of energy. I am very healthy, even with all the drugs I have taken and I have not always been safe on the streets. “That I can laugh without any money. That I can be free without any money. Not even a penny in my pocket book and I can still smile without any money….I can still smile.” I want to be drug and alcohol free, exercise, and be healthy. Clothes make me very happy. I would like to have a sewing or quilting machine. That’s my dream, to sew or to make quilts, to make whatever I want, whatever is in my heart. That would be my work.