WI: Sexploitation – It’s here and it’s heartbreaking

Former prostitute tells her story in Siren

Roger Hilde
Sentinel Reporter

SIREN-Heidi Carlson sat holding her child in her arms while her pimp put a .357 Magnum to her head with one bullet in it and repeatedly pulled the trigger.That was the scene less than 10 years after Carlson, who grew up in rural Minnesota, had graduated fifth in her class and was looking forward to a bright future as she headed off to college with a four-year ROTC scholarship to St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

Carlson told her life story and how she was exploited to a group of Siren Lioness members and their guests in hopes of preventing such a scenario for children in Burnett County.

Carlson was the guest speaker for ASK, Adults Saving Kids, an organization in Minneapolis dedicated to teaching young people the truth about prostitution, exploding the myths of commercial sexual exploitation, and reaching young women and men to prevent both victimization and demand.

One in four girls attending our college campuses are victims of date rape according to Carlson. “I was one of those victims,” she admitted.

Feeling bad and remorseful after the incident, Carlson started drinking. “Those pains kept growing and growing and I was becoming more and more vulnerable,” said Carlson

“Then I met this young man. He had a nice car, nice house, and being with him was very exciting,” explained Carlson.

“I was meeting beautiful people with money, furs and jewels and it was an exciting lifestyle,” she went on.

What Carlson didn’t know was that her new friend was slowly “turning her out.”

“Slowly he was brainwashing me until I was brought around and acclimatized to this lifestyle,” said Carlson.

Then one day he began telling her, “You’re having sex any way so why don’t you get paid for it? We can have this great life together,” and he made many many more promises.

After that there was no escaping for Carlson.

She became part of an escort service and “No matter how much I was paid, I was a commodity and to all the glamorous people I met I was nothing more than a prostitute,” she explained.

The pimps keep the prostitutes in line with beatings and threats.

“I was pistol whipped more times than I can count,” related Carlson.

Eventually the prostitutes become so traumatized and brutalized that they don’t know how to get out.

After the Russian Roulette incident, she escaped by taking her children and hiding out in northern Wisconsin for more than two years.

Still, it took a nervous breakdown and a suicide attempt to force her to get the treatment she needed to began her 15 year recovery.

Now, Carlson holds a Master’s degree in Psychology. She works for The Volunteers of America Residential Center (RC), a 58-bed facility that provides correctional services for men who have been convicted of felonies and are allowed to complete part of their sentences in a community-based, work-release facility in Minneapolis. 

Still, she can’t get away from the exploitation of children for sex,

One of her clients is from Burnett County who was convicted and sent to prison for manufacturing meth.

“He related to me that parents are giving their nine and 10 year olds to the drug dealers to use sexually to support their drug habits,” said Carlson.

“These children are scarred for life and this is a training ground for what’s going to happen in their lives,” she went on.

Carlson’s goal is to create such an awareness of the explosion of sexploitation that parents and grandparents become motivated and educated so they can look out for their children or grandchildren and when they see those warning signs- can take action.

 “As a society we are becoming more and more desensitized. We see it on TV and we hear it in our music and we need to take action to protect our children,” she warned.

According to Carlson, one in three girls and one in six boys will be molested before the age of 18. “I was molested by a cousin when I was 11 years old and it became a family secret,” she related.

Carlson pleaded that parents and grandparents need to be open to their kids.

“You have got to let them know that whatever it is, that you love them and there is absolutely nothing that would make you turn away from them,” she said.

“Let them know that whatever it is that is wrong, you will figure out the solution together,” she added.

The predators are out there and they are very active and aggressive. The goal of the predator is to isolate the young person, particularly from their parents according to Carlson.

The predator will always say, “Don’t tell your parents. They don’t understand, they are old, they don’t care, I am the one who cares about you, this is our secret,” she explained.

The goal of the pimp is to get the children when they are young enough to brain wash. “The average age of girls going into prostitution today is 13 years of age,” said Carlson.

She pointed out that two of the areas where the predators are most active in recruiting future prostitutes are the internet and the Mall of America.

With access to the internet, the children of small town America are no longer isolated. With the ready availability of date rape drugs such as GHP, date rape and the negative psychological effects has become more prevalent.

These combined have made the children of small town America vulnerable to the sexploitation that is happening today.

“If it happened to me, a child who grew up in a town the size of Grantsburg, it can happen to your children,” said Carlson.

She had some advice for parents, counselors and children.

Go to the ADS http://www.adultssavingkids.org website to learn more about this threat to our children.

“Kids, learn about date rape and what you can do to protect yourself. Talk to someone if you have a problem, your parents, a teacher, a counselor, a pastor. They all love you and want to help,” advised Carlson.




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