Cover image for Listening to Olivia : violence, poverty, and prostitution
Listening to Olivia : violence, poverty, and prostitution
Raphael, Jody, 1944-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Northeastern University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
308 pages ; 23 cm.
Personal Subject:

Format :


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Home Location
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HQ146.C4 R26 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



For nineteen years, Olivia lived the shadowy life of stripper, streetwalker, and heroin addict on the fringes of society. Leaving a troubled home at age sixteen to land a seemingly glamorous job at a Chicago stripclub, she became trapped in a web of prostitution and drug addiction that eventually forced her onto the streets and into a world of hardship at the hands of abusive men. But Olivia, a resourceful, vibrant woman of color, ultimately escaped the prostitution lifestyle and is now director of addiction services at a community counseling program, working to support drug-dependent women.

Listening to Olivia is the compelling account of her descent into poverty and abuse together with her hard fought recovery. By assimilating new research on the women and girls in prostitution--in addition to their male customers--Jody Raphael discovers that experiences like Olivia's are alarmingly common and argues that the sex trade as an institution promotes violence against women. Smashing both the common stereotype of the depraved streetwalker and abstract feminist arguments legitimizing prostitution as the sexual liberation of women, the author uncovers an emerging multimillion-dollar global trafficking industry that detains women in a violent cycle of exploitation and dependence. Olivia's own insights on her turbulent childhood, stripping in clubs, soliciting on the street, drug addiction, brutal pimps, her three pregnancies, and her extraordinary transformation highlight important new questions: who are the men who buy sex from such poor, strung out women; and why are so many of these men so violent?

Olivia's story gives a human face to the overwhelmingly low-income, non-white, and unempowered young women in prostitution today. Combined with a wealth of new findings, this gripping and accessible study challenges the academy, the legal system, and society as a whole to wake up and listen to the women like Olivia.

Author Notes

Jody Raphael is Senior Research Fellow at the DePaul University College of Law's Schiller, DuCanto and Fleck Family Law Center
Claire Renzetti, is Professor of Sociology at St. Joseph's University

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Olivia left an alcoholic, violent home at age 16 in the hopes of becoming a dancer in one of Chicago's clubs on Rush Street, known in the 1970s for its strip joints. She'd already been drinking for over seven years to numb herself to the beatings her mother routinely received from her father, so it was an easy step to self-anesthesia via alcohol and drugs as her increasingly degrading stripper's life led her to prostitution and the streets, a life she lived for 19 years until she escaped the lifestyle via the Genesis House, eventually becoming a director of addiction services at a community counseling program for drug-dependent women. Raphael wrote this compelling account, which follows Saving Bernice (2000) as the second in a planned trilogy on impoverished woman and violence to give voice to poor women of color in prostitution, and to provide new perspectives, grounded in new research data, regarding the social implications of today's multibillion-dollar sex industry. --Whitney Scott Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Raphael (senior research fellow, DePaul Univ. Coll. of Law) presents the second book in her planned trilogy focusing on how and why so many women in the United States become trapped in violence and poverty. (The first book was Saving Bernice: Battered Women, Welfare, and Poverty.) This volume tells the story of Olivia, conveyed in her own coherent voice through a series of interviews with Raphael. Olivia is an intelligent and resourceful person who is now a director of addiction services in the Chicago suburbs, providing the kind of help to others that had not been offered to her earlier in her troubled life. At 16, Olivia left a seriously dysfunctional home, spending the next 19 years as a stripper, alcoholic, prostitute, drug addict, and victim of her own financial and emotional needs as well as the demands of controlling and abusive men. Throughout the narrative, Raphael places Olivia's experiences in worldwide historical and contemporary contexts of prostitution, the tyranny of pimps, and the burgeoning sex trade. She also discusses the ramifications of societies' various approaches toward these problems as they severely impact the lives of girls and women. With its revealing, firsthand details, this study is highly recommended for professionals and a general adult public audience.-Suzanne W. Wood, emerita, SUNY Coll. of Technology at Alfred (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Raphael (law, DePaul Univ.) does a good job of weaving statistical information about the challenges prostitutes face with a case study of one former prostitute to give an academic yet personal glimpse into the lives of these women. However, while Olivia's personal story is a welcome addition to numerical data, some of Raphael's conclusions are self-evident and do not contribute much to the literature. One of the author's self-defined goals is to provide information about low-income women of color who participate in prostitution; however, she does little to compare the experiences of prostitutes of color to other prostitutes, leaving the contribution unclear. Furthermore, Raphael implies that she wants to further knowledge about how women leave prostitution, but her work provides little insight beyond the obvious about this transition. That being said, even though the academic contributions for furthering the knowledge of prostitutes is weak, this is a useful text for undergraduates because it provides an interesting, personalized depiction of the challenges and obstacles that prostitutes face. Raphael's depiction could be enlightening to those who have little knowledge of the subject. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General, public, and undergraduate collections. L. Wolfer University of Scranton

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 3
Chapter 1 Groomedp. 11
Chapter 2 Reeled Inp. 29
Chapter 3 Strippingp. 52
Chapter 4 Shooting Upp. 74
Chapter 5 The Streetp. 91
Chapter 6 Doped Upp. 112
Chapter 7 Trappedp. 127
Chapter 8 Escapep. 146
Chapter 9 Other Voices, Other Roomsp. 175
Chapter 10 What Is to Be Done?p. 203
Epiloguep. 228
Notesp. 235
Bibliographyp. 277
Acknowledgmentsp. 297
Indexp. 299