Secrets do not make friends — or fiancés

Secrets do not make friends — or fiancés

By Branda Mitchell, @BrandaM_DE

One day in late March of 2013, I was pumping gas at a shady station when I received a text.

“Click this link. Your boyfriend isn’t who you think he is.”

At first, I chuckled. Clearly, this person did not know me. It was a random number not saved in my phone and I didn’t have a boyfriend, I had a fiancé — everyone knew that.


With half a tank left to fill and a rush of anxiety, I clicked on the link. It took me to a website with my husband-to-be’s face next to a screen name I have now blocked from my memory.

I stopped filling up my car, sat down in the driver’s seat and began to process what I was seeing. Next to his photo was a description of himself along with a list of services and prices for various “massages.”

My fiancé was a sex worker.

Experts approximate there are one million to two million prostitutes working in the U.S. at any time. However, because of the culture surrounding the industry, that number is considered a conservative estimate.

My fiancé got dragged into the industry out of desperation for money. Sex work is a lucrative industry and college is expensive.

The underground sex economy generated an estimated $39.9 million to $290 million in 2007, according to a study conducted by the Urban Institute, a public policy and research organization.

This was by far the weirdest thing I had ever experienced in my life.


Before I could finish my thoughts, my phone rang. My fiancé’s best friend was calling, laughing as he told me about this weird text message he had just gotten, except his didn’t include a link.

His just said, “Your best friend is a prostitute for other guys.”

I laughed it off, said one of our other friends must be playing some joke and hung up.

Armed with a single screenshot of the website and a mix of emotions I could not process, I picked up my fiancé and made it three blocks before I pulled over and confronted him.

Not expecting his secret to get out, he looked at me like I had just told him Santa was not real.

Choking on tears, he told me it was not a joke and he had been lying to me for months. He begged for my forgiveness, said he would stop and apologized profusely.

He told me he owed his pimp money and the text messages were his way of getting back at him. After a long conversation, I told him I needed space to think.

I went home alone and processed my life. I was 18, in my first year of college and my fiancé’s pimp had just used me for extortion.

This chapter in my life sheds light on underground sex work and the risks involved with a lack of education and resources.

In Illinois, prostitution related charges range from a misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony, perpetuating a cycle that often includes other crimes.

Engaging in sex work is a high-risk lifestyle. Fifty-five percent of subjects reported having a substance addiction prior to getting involved in the industry, according to a study published in 2012 by the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

Completely oblivious to what was going on in my relationship, I was monogamous to my significant other. I didn’t get any life altering diseases, but not everyone is so lucky.

There are many risks associated with the illegal sex work industry and resources are needed for those who engage in prostitution.

In hindsight, I wish I had dealt with the situation differently. Clearly my significant other needed help getting out of a world he had never intended to get into, but I was not prepared to handle it at the time.

I never thought I would become involved in something like that, but it can affect anyone.

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