Hometown Heroes: Nicole Bell (Worcester Mag)

Worcester, MassachusettsThere are, according to estimates, 40-plus prostitutes on Worcester’s streets on any given day. Not all at once, of course, but off and on, morning to night. Nicole Bell knows. She was one of them. Now, with the support of friends and through her own sheer grit and determination, she is doing her best to get those women off the streets and keep others from ever falling into the life of sexual exploitation.

The 35-year-old Bell is married and just gave birth to a son, Sebastian. She works at Pathways for Change Inc., 588 Main St., Worcester, providing sex trafficking outreach and survivor support. She has been there since April, but has been helping survivors about two years.

For too many years, Bell was on the other end of the spectrum – lost, desperate, addicted and sold to men to make money for other men. Her cut: drugs. To get them, she had to turn more tricks and make more money for the guy she with at the time. It was a vicious cycle she was unsure would ever be broken, and it started out, as prostitution often does, when she was vulnerable.

“I was 17,” she recalled. “I got victimized by a 35-year-old guy. My family had split apart. My friend’s older brother boyfriended me a little bit. I thought I was his girlfriend. He was engaged to be married, but I thought he was my boyfriend.”

That man, she said, started asking her to sleep with his friends, who would pay him for her services. It would happen just about every time she was with him. She ended up becoming pregnant by the man, giving her daughter up for adoption and going to school. All the while, she was struggling with drug and alcohol use.

It grew worse, Bell said, after she found her mother, who had long suffered from lupus and other illnesses, dead in her house. Still, she refused to admit she had a drug problem. Finally, she went to a sober home in Taunton. Instead of recovering, however, she found herself a willing partner, another woman who introduced Bell to heroin.

Continue reading the rest here Hometown Heroes: Nicole Bell — Worcester Magazine, 11/23/2016