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After running away from her sexually abusive stepfather and being evicted from where she was living, Christal Capostinsky was placed in a shelter in downtown Vancouver where she met women who introduced her to drugs and sex work.A few months later, at 19 years old, addicted to heroin and working in the sex trade, Capostinsky felt she had nowhere to turn.
She is a mother, a full time social work student and has recovered from her drug addiction, but she is still very connected to her old life on the streets.
Capostinsky is the founder of New Hope, an organization that provides practical support for women in what she calls "survival sex work." She founded the organization last September after realizing that there are no resources exclusively for sex workers in the northern region.
"There are a lot of resources in the lower mainland, but not in the north, so we took the initiative to start something," said Capostinsky.
"It's a needed service in the community," said Si Transken, a social work professor at the University of Northern British Columbia.
"Prince George has always been a travel-through location.
It's a place where women come from small, outlying communities hoping for a better life." Range of services New Hope is a unique resource for sex workers as the focus is not on exiting the sex trade, but rather on providing practical support, such as food, clothing and harm reduction materials. "You have to wait for them to come to you." Instead, New Hope aims "to educate them and give them information so they can make healthier choices.They also hold skill-building workshops, refer patrons to health and legal services and advocate on their behalf. If that means they continue to work, that's alright with us," she added. "When you're involved in drug use, you can't really cognitively make the decision to not work because you need money to get high." Godwin also estimated that about 85 percent of the women are aboriginal, which Capostinsky attributes to continuing problems with colonization.The centre is currently open just four hours, one night a week, but Capostinsky plans to expand the hours in the future. They want to live a healthy life and it's really hard when you're continually oppressed." Aboriginals at risk Constable Gary Godwin from the Prince George RCMP estimates that about 100 women are sex workers on the Prince George streets. This is one of the reasons Capostinsky refers to the trade as survival sex work. "With aboriginal women, it's a cycle of abuse," said Capostinsky, who is also aboriginal."There is a huge need for it," she said, adding that they have seen over 40 women in the past six months. Many of the women are also HIV-positive - a growing problem in Northern B. "Right now there's an epidemic around hepatitis C and HIV especially with aboriginal women," said Capostinsky."They need a place where they can be themselves and not feel judged." "They just want to feel accepted - they want their community to stop blaming them for all the social problems," she continued. She is HIV-positive, a result of sex work, and is currently employed as a Peer Support Worker for Positive Living North - the HIV prevention and support service in Prince George.'Forced' decisions Transken added that it's important to recognize the societal factors that force women into survival sex work. has gained notoriety for the "Highway of Tears," which runs from Prince George to Prince Rupert, where at least nine young women have died or disappeared since 1990.Tags: Adult Dating, affair dating, sex dating