Advice needed: sex worker rehab in Canada

I guess that title will get the right attention, but it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. Over the past month I have become good friends online with a 20-year old woman in Edmonton, Alberta; I’ll call her Gina. She’s got some big problems, though, bigger than I can help her with alone, so I turn to you Dopers to either provide some advice directly or direct me to some resources I can utilize. It doesn’t help that I’m a US citizen and know nothing about Canadian social services. Here are the major problems as I see them:

  1. She lives with an abusive ex-boyfriend. Unlike many women who stay in abusive relationships, she’s well aware that she should get out and wants to. The complicating factor is that she has some big health problems and needs his insurance or it will cost her several thousand dollars a month just for drugs she needs. It seems like there should be some program she can take advantage of and she’s mentioned something, but I don’t know what it is or who to talk to.

  2. She’s selling her body. I’m not someone who’s rabidly anti-prostitution, if the worker is otherwise okay with it, but it’s obvious she is not. In part, I put this down to her lack of professionalism; I’ve known an escort who seemed quite well-adjusted to and apparently liked her lifestyle, but Gina seems to have no idea how to conduct business in such a way that keeps her feeling okay with herself. Ideally, she should get a regular job, but she will probably need help getting started, or at least change her practices to something more manageable. I can offer some advice, but don’t know a lot in this area.

  3. She’s been a drug abuser (coke) in her past, but apparently she’s clean for six months now. It still hangs over her, though. It’s obvious that several times, if I hadn’t been online to talk her down, she would have gotten high instead. She stole money from her sister in the past to support her habit. Her feelings of worthlessness after a day of sex work really push her to the edge.

  4. She has a mental block on making things better for herself. For being so young, she has quite a history of abusive relationships and being used by men for sex. I’m no prude, but some of her wilder exploits could not have been mentally healthy for her. She’s opened up to me quite a bit, but she doesn’t want to seek outside help and wants to “take care of herself”. I can understand that, since I was 20 once, but her problems are too big for her alone. I would say she really needs therapy and possibly has a sex addiction, though how to convince her to go to therapy or pay for it is a major hurdle. She’s way into older men (she had a recent relationship with a 55-year old) which brings us to…

  5. She’s pretty much in love with me (I’m 38). We started chatting online, then chatting with video, then talking over Skype. She says she likes me because I care, which I do, but I can’t have a long-term relationship with a 20-year old. It seems I may be the only positive influence in her life, though, and it’s hard for me to deny her when that could send her to new depths. I’m scheduled to be in Edmonton on business for a few days in two weeks and plan to meet her, but I’m really unsure how that should go. She’ll want to have sex (she’s expressed as much many times) and in part at least I think she wants it so that she can have some actual intimacy in her life. I started off thinking this was a bad idea, not wanting to be “part of the problem”, but I hate to shut down her one avenue of good feelings about her life and now I’m too close and don’t know what to do. I just want what’s best for her.

So there it is. A young woman who needs a lot of help and I just can’t turn my back on that. Any help or advice appreciated, especially if you know the Canadian system.

Seriously dude, back off !

If she isn’t scamming you, you’ve got to wonder why an on-line stranger is her only chance for happiness.

99.9% chance that whomever you are talking to is making the whole thing up to scam you.

What Flying Dutchman said. If this were a girl you’d known in real life, that would be one thing, but you don’t even know if she exists.

Concur, concur, concur.

Giant red flags of SCAM are being raised.

Maybe it is.

I agree with setting a boundary away from getting involved sexually with her or helping her out financially (or both). When someone’s in a situation of great need, boundaries are very necessary because they keep you from going down with the 'ship, as it were.

But if you like this woman, there’s no reason not to act supportive within the boundaries of a friendship.

I wish I was more familiar with the social services in Edmonton. It’s hard to know what services will be helpful, especially in somewhere like Alberta where social services can be sparse and difficult to access. I’ll contact some of my folks in Montreal and see if they know of services in Edmonton that might be appropriate.


Drop her like a live rattlesnake.

Has she asked you for money? How often has she mentioned she’d need money for the meds?

How did you two meet?

Will you only be meeting her in public places? Might be wiser, at least for the first few times.

How pretty is she? I ask not in the “it might be worth it” sense, but rather because pretty women clouding the judgement of men has been known to happen.

The John Howard Society in Edmonton would be a good place to start. They will know of an organization which helps sex workers get out of the life.

In regards to prescriptions, if she is on welfare, all prescriptions are covered by the government.

Hereis information regarding the Alberta Health Prescription drug plans available to your friend. She might qualify for one of these drug plans, particularly the Income Support one. Your friend would need to take the time to read through this information and possibly contact the Ministry to find a solution that works for her. If she can get a full-time job, most of those will cover her prescription drug needs. If she chooses to become a full-time student, there’s a good chance a university Student Health Plan would also cover her needs…it all depends on what life choices she chooses to make from here on out.

John Howard is an excellent idea, but it deals mainly with men. The women’s equivalent is the Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton.

Income support from social services is available in Alberta; here is a link to the Alberta government page explaining the program, with links to necessary forms. Similarly, as lexi notes, eligibility for income support also makes one eligible for health benefits including prescription medications; see that program’s page here. In other words, she need not live with an abusive boyfriend because of his income or his insurance.

She does not need to be with an abusive boyfriend, period. This link leads to the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, which has a number to call to get in touch with a shelter near her.

I agree that this sounds like a scam; but in case it is not, the above links should point her towards some resources she will find helpful.

And once you point her the direction to enable her to help herself, step back. She either helps herself or she doesn’t. If she broke a coke habit and is aware she can leave the abusive boyfriend, she is more than capable of calling a women’s shelter. If she can’t take that step, after convincing you that she is a capable person who has overcome difficulty in the past and not a professional victim, that adds to the evidence that this is a scam.

I love the end.

I just have to fly to see her, and it isn’t that I am 38 and want to bone a 20 year old . . Honestly! I have no interest in such prurient activities myself, but then you must consider her welfare and how she might feel if you didn’t have sex with her. At this point such a snub could break her. I don’t know if it is a scam exactly, but you and your money will be parted. If not by her then you sound like the type to be taken by a Nigerian scam or similar chicanery.

At least get admit you want to get laid in the process.

I think you are wise to refer her. How much she wants/needs the help would be evident by whether she transfers her dependency to agencies which are capable of meeting her many needs.

This individual has entirely too many complicated problems than any one, or two, persons can manage.

I’d be very careful about any contact with this woman in her present state. I think you’d be fortunate if she were simply trying a scam on you. If what she says is accurate you could be tangled up in a mess much more difficult to extricate yourself from than a scam is.

I do know a man who involved himself in a similar way. He now takes care of their child. She’s in prison.

Short for Vagina?

Look, why would you want to get involved with a person like that? Assuming that this person is on the level (which they probably aren’t), you are not qualified to help her. Most likely she will just play you for a chump.

At best, you will be in a co-dependent relationship with an emotionally damaged prostitute who is way too young for you.

Scam. A classic one.

First off, be honest with yourself. You said you were not interested in a “relationship” with a 20 year old, but I bet you are intrigued by the idea of banging her. In addition, she is triggering a whole bunch of “protection” fantasies. You feel like you, and you alone, might be in a position to save her. This is a feeling she has carefully cultivated. Vulnerability combined with sex is a great way to get a man to do what you want him to.

Understanding this will help you make sense of how much you are getting scammed.

Go read every “I fell in love with a hooker and got scammed” story out there. This has each and every hallmark. Here is a good one. The writer is a piece of work on his own, but the scam is similar.

First there is the abusive boyfriend. This is so that she has a good explanation for when she is busy, hard to contact, or seems to be involved with other guys. Every time her story doesn’t add up, she can find a way to say it’s related to her “ex-boyfriend.” She doesn’t answer her phone for a week? Ex-boyfriend. You hear some random guy in the background? Ex-boyfriend. Made a date and doesn’t keep it? Ex-boyfriend.

She’s also setting it up for the possibility that she can “escape” from her ex-boyfriend. Of course, we all know the economy is tough, and she might need some monthly “help” so she can live independently. Skip a payment, and she could fall back in his clutches! This is a great way to get monthly support.

The illness, of course, is for extracting lump payments and a set-up for getting money out of you when you are finally getting frustrated. There will come a point where you stop believing her stories, but she knows you won’t just let her get sick. She’s already thinking ahead to how she’ll get that last bit of money out of you when she gets figured out.

The drug addiction, etc? More penalties. If you make a mistake, she’ll conveniently slip back in to it. You’ll feel terrible for letting her down and not being able to save her, and renew your commitment. Of course, she just needs a bit of money to start the recovery process…It also provides cover if you discover her habit on your own- it’d trigger alarm bells if you discovered out of nowhere that she used drugs, but now it won’t because you know there is the possibility she might slip up.

She likes older men because you are an older man. She’s solving the “why is a 20 year old interested in banging me” question. If you were younger, she’d like younger men. If you were black, she’d like black guys. If you had one arm, she’d have an amputee fetish.

Send her these links, and then cut if off. You are not her daddy. You are not her knight in shining armor. She almost certainly has an addiction to feed and a boyfriend who is not you. Don’t be the sucker that finances that.

If you do decide to travel to Edmonton to sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own, here also are some places you can eat called “Mom’s,” and some places you can play cards with a man named “Doc.”

If this girl is who she says she is, the best thing you can do for her is to continue to be a FRIEND who is supportive instead of another john. Don’t have sex with her.
That is a bad idea for so many reasons that I can’t even list them all.
I do think it would lead to you becoming part of the problem. All you would be teaching her is that her only worth is as a warm wet spot for guys to spooge into rather than as a human being. She needs to learn that it is okay and healthy to interact with men in ways that don’t involve sex.
You know, I’m sure, that she can’t really be “in love” after just a month of internet talking - she hasn’t even met you yet. Either she is throwing the word love around to try to reel you in for a scam or because she is very emotionally messed up and doesn’t really know what love means (or both!).
Not to mention it’s a serious health hazard to bang a drug addicted prostitute. I’m wondering if her health issues have anything to do with HIV or Hepatitis C from the prostitution or drug use. She herself may not even know she has these illnesses, but she is very high risk for them.

I do think that it is nice of you to want to help out someone this troubled, but I think it is important to remember that there is only so much you can do for her. She does have to be willing to accept the help herself. Many times drug addicts’ loved ones end up cutting ties not due to lack of caring for the person but for their own sanity - if someone refuses to accept the help they need to get better, there is nothing you can do for them.

Thanks for the scam warnings, everyone, really, but I’ve researched her background enough, unbeknownst to her, and interacted with her enough to be reasonably sure the situation is as represented. I’m not compltely dropping my defenses and still protecting myself, but be assured that part is covered. If you could please concentrate on how to help this young woman out, I would appreciate it.

I’ll be back in a bit to address other comments.

Just when I didn’t think it could get creepier.