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Kelly sprints out of the hotel, carrying her luggage. I don’t even recognize her.

Kelly (not her real name) was always a beach babe, brown hair with sun-kissed highlights, skinny with curves. This girl running out of the Ontario Holiday Inn at midnight is a bleached blonde with extensions that are noticeably fake. Plus, she’s wearing pajamas. Pink flannel with elephants on them. Wow. Is she serious?

We jet out of the hotel parking lot. “I need a cigarette,” Kelly rasps. She already reeks of smoke. Her makeup looks like she slept with it on. The fake lashes are hanging off her eyelids.

The entire drive back home to San Diego is dominated by Kelly’s blabbering. She’s on drugs. Textbook speedy.

Author Jessica Swenke

Author Jessica Swenke

“I hope they don’t find me,” she says, “’cause they’ll hurt me.”

“Tomorrow, we’re gonna figure it out,” says her mother, who is also in the car. “You gotta stay away from these people. We’ll get you checked into a hospital. We’ll delete your Facebook, clear your contacts in your phone. You gotta get away.”

Am I going to be here for all of this? Scary people, detox, and psych wards. I feel like I am taping an episode of Intervention.

Kelly’s mom says to me, “Jessie, I need you to stay at our apartment tonight. She could slip out the front with my bedroom door closed.” I feel obligated; we didn’t go through all this effort so Kelly could run on her first night back in Rancho Peñasquitos.


Kelly and I met in high school. She was spontaneous and fun. Our sophomore year, while at a kickback, a guy one year older slipped something in her drink. She was raped that night. Though she seemed relatively unaffected by the incident, she tried to prosecute the boy that raped her. The harassment she experienced at school led her to dismiss the case. Nobody believed her. She moved on, but it changed who she was. Guys in high school looked at her as easy. Kelly thrived on the attention.


Author Jessica Swenke talks about her friend Kelly

In September 2009, we went to Silver Strand State Beach to party. Kelly and I teamed up and played beer pong, substituting shots of vodka. Random guys and inebriated girls wasn’t a great equation, but nothing happened. The next morning, we woke up with blaring headaches. The RV smelled like marijuana. I asked myself, What the hell am I doing with these people?

We stopped talking after Silver Strand. It upset me to end the friendship. But I was a full-time dental assistant, and Kelly was working minimum-wage, partying her life away.


In June 2010, I got a message on Facebook:

“Hey Jess, hope all is well… Please keep Kelly in your prayers, I don’t know why she is doing all of this, who would have ever imagined. She needs as many prayers as she can get, I know this is really random. Mary” (not her real name).

I called Kelly’s mom.

“Hi, Karen! It’s me, Jessie Swenke.” This was really awkward.

“Oh, Jess! Oh, God, Jess. Our lives have been a living hell.”

That evening, I met Karen (not her real name) at Starbucks in Carmel Mountain. We greeted each other with a tight embrace. I had a lump in my throat. It was going to be bad.

“Jessie, she’s been whorin’ herself out on the streets with these low-life pimps.” Karen had watery eyes. “It’s been months now.”

The information wasn’t registering in my brain. Kelly, a prostitute? Nope. No way. This stuff happens on El Cajon Boulevard. Not to us, not in suburbia. Getting crazy to us had once meant high-school parties where the parents weren’t home.

I suggested to Karen that we call Kelly. We walked to my car, because the locals in Starbucks probably didn’t want to overhear that conversation.

We dialed tons of combinations. Prostitutes change their numbers weekly, or even more often. They don’t want police, family, or ex-pimps to track them. Finally, we got through. It rang and rang, until the call was forwarded to a voicemail that wasn’t set up. We kept trying. When Kelly finally answered, Karen immediately put the phone on speaker.

“Sis, it’s Mom. Before you hang up, I love you so much, and your brothers and father and I want the best for you and will help you get out of this. Where are you?” Karen’s voice was firm, but she was desperate.

“Mom, I’m so depressed. I need to get out of here. I’m kinda far away, though.”

This was not the Kelly I knew. She sounded broken — I could hear it through the phone. I couldn’t back away. I felt compelled to help this desperate girl and her frantic mom.

It was 9:00 p.m. By this time on a weeknight, I was usually saying goodnight to my younger brothers and parents and tucking myself into bed, wearing silk sleepwear from Victoria’s Secret. Sometimes, I stayed up to catch the news. But instead of my cushy life at home, I was on my way to pick up my prostitute BFF from a hotel in Ontario.

Karen’s boyfriend drove.

“Jess, I’m going to warn you,” Tom said, and I immediately went into oh-shit mode. I was thinking that we were too far up the 15 for me to bail on this thing, hoping that the 20 percent left on my iPhone battery would last long enough for a save-me call to Mom and Dad.

“Kelly will not be the same,” said Tom (not his real name). “She’s probably going to be on drugs. She’s platinum-blonde. She’s also kind of ghetto.”

Oh, ghetto fabulous? I’d seen those girls at Plaza Bonita. So, Kelly would be straight out of a Lil’ Wayne video? It was too strange. How did she go from beach-preppy to ghetto fab?

The roughed-up blonde that runs out of the hotel in Ontario is not a video vixen from MTV. She is drug-skinny.

I’d imagined she’d be like the prostitutes in movies, like Pretty Woman. I thought I was prepared to see her. But nothing can get you ready to see someone in this condition.

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Comments

LaLucha Sept. 19, 2012 @ 10:29 p.m.

This is a scary story. i want to read the whole book.

1

RMc Sept. 21, 2012 @ 11:16 a.m.

You can!... "Girls Like Us" by Rachael Lloyd "Runaway Girl" by Carissa Phelps "Renting Lacy" by Linda Smith

1

SurfPuppy619 Sept. 19, 2012 @ 11:35 p.m.

Plus, she’s wearing pajamas. Pink flannel with elephants on them.

Nothing SCREAMS SEXY like a skinny babe wearing pink jammies with elephants on them.............I would not be able to control myself if I saw THAT

1

SurfPuppy619 Sept. 20, 2012 @ 1:11 p.m.

Pretty sad story.................breaks my heart, I can only imagine how her parents and BFF feel.

1

FreedomFighter Sept. 20, 2012 @ 3:08 p.m.

Congratulations Jessica! You have now further exploited your friend by sharing her story with thousands of readers. You got your 15 minutes of fame! And since you chose to share your name, people can connect the dots and figure out who this "Kelly" really is. I'm sure her parents are thrilled to see this! Instead of exploiting your friend, you should have taken the opportunity to learn about sex trafficking, seeing her as a victim instead of one of your many inappropriate terms "hooker, whore, prostitute" used in your article. Sex trafficking is real, and it's scary. Instead of being sympathetic, you have chosen to write a sensationalized story of your friend's victimization. I hope "Kelly" is safe and finds the services she needs to start a new life, and I hope to God she finds new friends!

3

SurfPuppy619 Sept. 20, 2012 @ 4:49 p.m.

I think the story is an excellent cautionary tale. Mix drugs, alcohol and bad people together and this could happen. As for connecting the dots, how many people on the face of the planet knows the writer, and how many of them know the writers BFF??? Not very many, probably just a handful.

1

RMc Sept. 20, 2012 @ 6:02 p.m.

I don’t know the writer, but I do know many Kelly’s and their stories are those of being sold a dream of sorts…love, companionship, a life together, only to learn that Mr. Right is Mr. I Want to Turn You Out on the Street for my financial gain. It is very rare that a minor or young adult woman would want the life of being paid for sex only to have to turn it over to her pimp. I would not be too quick to judge the Kelly’s of the world, as there are many right her in San Diego, but instead ask…what got you to this place? How can I help? Where do we find services? You can start by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888) 373-7888, or the local BSCC Hotline (619) 666-2757. You could also educate yourself on the issues of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. Shared Hope International and Polaris Project are great international resources that understand the domestic issue as well.

4

maria52 Sept. 23, 2012 @ 5:35 p.m.

Perfectly said. Thank you for your knowledge and wisdom.

1

SurfPuppy619 Sept. 20, 2012 @ 6:20 p.m.

And you don't think this article is educating people???????????????

0

maria52 Sept. 23, 2012 @ 5:34 p.m.

no not one bit. just drivel from a stupid girl.

0

SurfPuppy619 Sept. 25, 2012 @ 2:41 p.m.

Well, many people will find it educational, as I did. As I said, it is a good cautionary tale of what can happen with drugs, alcohol and bad people.

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maria52 Sept. 23, 2012 @ 5:20 p.m.

please. she is hardly her BFF. she made that abundantally clear by breaking her friendship off with the poor girl just 'cause she went to a party with her where people drank. how insipid. it's a cautionary tale into: how lame and insensitive the Reader and nice girls from Rancho Penasquitos should behave: don't help, just sanctimoniously report trash..

2

SurfPuppy619 Sept. 23, 2012 @ 10:15 p.m.

Go home and tell your sad story to someone who cares Maria, b/c we sure don't. You're a sour puss who just wants to complain like a little baby b/c you didn't get your way.

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maria52 Sept. 25, 2012 @ 9:22 a.m.

get my way? i haven't even mentioned myself once. this is about kelly, and being exploited. how in the world did you extrapolate from my comments that it is my "sad story?" um, it's mystifying to me that obviously you can read and write, but you can't comprehend.

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maria52 Sept. 23, 2012 @ 5:12 p.m.

Thank you for expressing my sentiment so well.

2

leosurf Sept. 20, 2012 @ 4:10 p.m.

If this story is non-fiction, this writer Jessica is a non-friend. A trashy and selfish person.

4

Catbird Sept. 20, 2012 @ 10:33 p.m.

I am inclined to go easy on the author having encountered similar scenarios a handful of times throughout my life.
Even now, years after the death of a close friend who suffered addictions and left behind a shattered husband and two young children, I am still conflicted because I "gave up on her."

I bounce between guilt because maybe I should have/could have done more and being resigned to the fact that there really was no more that I could do.

Helping a person with addictions requires nerves of steel and monumental strength and can be physically and emotionally draining for a fully matured individual let alone someone as young as the author. I commend her for exposing to light some of the feelings she encountered. Jessica offered her friend significant support as long as she could to the best of her ability.

It is easy to be idealistic but how many of us have stayed the path with an addicted friend all the way through to full recovery or death?

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Ken Harrison Sept. 21, 2012 @ 6:51 a.m.

I was fixated on this story, had to read it word for word til the end. An when finished, wanted to read more. Jessica you are a great friend. Your friendship was tested beyond belief and you did all you could. Thanks for a great story.

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maria52 Sept. 23, 2012 @ 5:11 p.m.

I'm glad to see other readers share my dismayed sentiment. What a putz for a friend! And shame on you, Reader, for even printing this. I'm sorry, how old is this girl? Thirteen? Sounds like it. She has a lot of nerve to write about something she knows nothing about. I understand she is telling her own personal experiences...I get it. But this "friend" did not even once attempt to understand what her friend-turned-prostitue was going through. Her ignorant disdain is so in line with this schmaltzy magazine, the Reader, though. The Reader has stubbornly stuck to allowing even the most medicore and poorly educated writers a forum to show their ill-concieved arrogance. She acts like she tried oh so hard, but just had to give up on Kelly, for her own mental health. Wow. Girl didn't even know what "manic" meant. Knows nothing about how these poor girls get their self-esteem literally beaten out of them by these pimps. Never once through the article, thought about maybe doing just a little research into human trafficking, drug addiction, bi-polar...One commenter said she was, "expoitive." Like it isn't bad enough to be exploited by pimps, now we have the Reader and her ostensible "friend" exploiting her as well. I learned nothing significant from this article 'cept how insensitive middle class suburban beorgious people can be, and how lame the Reader is to publish it.

3

SurfPuppy619 Sept. 23, 2012 @ 10:13 p.m.

Hey Maria, newsflash sweety, the author talks extensively about drug addiction and abuse. You didn't get anything out of it b/c you have a closed mind.

0

maria52 Sept. 24, 2012 @ 1:17 p.m.

First of all, I'm not your sweety. She may "talk" extensively about drug addiction and abuse, but it's harsh, albeit, meaningless observations. She spends most of the article trying to portray herself as "too good" to have to deal with this "nonsense." One reviewer above brought up an excellent point: most women that come from decent families in nice areas don't ever dream about having the most deplorable job on the planet. The cataclysmic brainwashing that is involved to get a girl to stay, and even go back is astounding. Yet girls do it all the time. Don't just single me out, surf pup, read all the other reviews. One says she knows the girl and her family and is outraged.

1

SurfPuppy619 Sept. 24, 2012 @ 10:41 p.m.

Sweety Maria, you sound like a spoiled child who whines and pouts if she doesn't get her way, so sad.Your opinion is just that- your opinion, you don't like the story don't read it. THAT SIMPLE. As for the negative comments here, every one of them are first time comments by newbie posters such as yourself, hardly reflective of the overall readership here.

0

Roberta73 Sept. 23, 2012 @ 7:43 p.m.

As for the author, shame on you! Hope you enjoyed your 15 minutes of fame at your friend's expense. I know Kelly and her family personally and I can't believe you never even asked their permission to tell this story. By the way, Kelly is doing great although I know Kelly and her family are quite taken back by your selfishness and betrayal of your friendship. I can't believe there's people like you that exist. How do you sleep at night? Oh, that's right... in your big Victoria's Secret pajamas at your safe Mommy and Daddy's house.

3

maria52 Sept. 23, 2012 @ 9:05 p.m.

Wow. Thanks for exposing this little brat for what she is.

2

Reaths Sept. 24, 2012 @ 11:35 a.m.

Nice article. It reminds us of the pain and suffering that addiction brings. Perhaps there will one day be a medical cure.

0

Roberta73 Sept. 24, 2012 @ 2:27 p.m.

your acting like woah is you. looks like you threw your friend under the bus for a little extra change. its really pathetic how you act like you were the victim when you are forgetting who really is. god help anyone who is your friend

2

jnojr Sept. 26, 2012 @ 1:15 p.m.

It's, "woe is me", not "woah is me". And "you're", not "your". "It's" And capitalize the first letter of each sentence.

0

GregInTheStory Sept. 24, 2012 @ 3:03 p.m.

I am “Greg”, “Kelly’s” dad. Yesterday I received a call from my distressed daughter informing me that high school friends were calling her about an article printed in the Reader written by her friend, Jessica Swenke. It is an understatement to say that she is devastated by the betrayal of the trust she placed in Jess.

2

SurfPuppy619 Sept. 24, 2012 @ 10:45 p.m.

No one here knows your name nor your daughters, and I doubt anyone wants to-this is a cautionary story about how things can go sideways when drugs, alcohol and bad characters are all mixed together to make for a very sad and sorry combination. And how would "high school friends" get your girls number if she screens her calls and changes cell phones once every couple of days??? Or are you maybe exaggerating this a little bit?

2

maria52 Sept. 25, 2012 @ 7:44 a.m.

surf pup, you are so outnumbered here. looks like you should stop before you make an even bigger a** of yourself. I would defend my position, but it's not worth even lowering myself--- to your collossal arrogance and infinite ignorance.

2

maria52 Sept. 25, 2012 @ 9:26 a.m.

but one more thing, pup. all of us "newbies" just happen to be people. just because we are "new" doesn't mean we have nothing to say. just like old morons like you have not one substantive thing to say.

0

SurfPuppy619 Sept. 25, 2012 @ 10:20 a.m.

just like old morons like you have not one substantive thing to say.

Sweety, you just made me cry. Now grow up and stop pouting like a 2 y/o.

0

maria52 Sept. 25, 2012 @ 11:02 a.m.

pup, no one is crying. explain to me how not agreeing with you is "pouting" "not grown up." this article is not about my need to mature, it's about this poor girl. non-sequitar is your logic, pup.

0

Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Sept. 25, 2012 @ 11:07 a.m.

I find the kill-the-messenger tone in many of these comments (maria52 particularly) to be disturbing. Your idea of what makes a friend -- someone actually used the term BFF -- is so high-school.

For a year, this courageous young author tried hard to help "Kelly" get started on the path of recovery. Kelly chose to leave that path... repeatedly. Finally, the author decided that, for her own health and Kelly's, she had to break the cycle. I.e. she grew up and realized that an addict has to hit bottom and admit powerlessness over the addiction, then choose to get help. That being a high school BFF isn't really love... it's enabling.

The subtext in all of this is the fact that GregInTheStory and Kelly's mom were divorced some time in Kelly's childhood. Look in the mirror, Greg. You and Kelly's mom are the ones who betrayed Kelly.

1

maria52 Sept. 25, 2012 @ 3:02 p.m.

oh jeez, more sanctimonious drivel. seriously? now blame it on the parents? what? parents need to stay together and make themselves and more importantly their kids miserable in order to prevent things of this terrible magnitude happening? she never was her BFF. she never stayed around long enough to even "enable" kelly. i object to her shallowness and her exploitation of kelly. call me disturbing, couldn't care less.

1

Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Oct. 30, 2012 @ 11:42 a.m.

And again, we hear the delusional idea that kids are better off when parents divorce. Kids become tennis balls when parents divorce, whacked back and forth, forced to love two people who don't (won't) love each other, forced to be full-time children to people who have copped out and become part time parents, forced to watch parents date. Does that sound like a good childhood to you?

0

Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Oct. 30, 2012 @ 11:59 a.m.

Maria52 says, "oh jeez, more sanctimonious drivel. seriously? now blame it on the parents?"

As if blaming parents for the self-destructive actions of a child is revolutionary. Any psychologist will tell you that upbringing is by far the most important factor in a person's development, and by extension, the choices that person makes later in life.

Kids given a good foundation by their parents rarely make such catastrophically bad decisions as Kelly did.

0

jnojr Sept. 25, 2012 @ 12:58 p.m.

Clearly, we need to outlaw prostitution. And drugs! They're BAAAD! And the piles of money we pour into "help" aren't big enough!

This story comes down to one thing... Kelly makes bad choices. Period. I know, the blubbers about, "Oh, she's mentally ill, she needs sympathy you SOB!" are coming. Where was the crazy behavior before she started taking drugs? Anyone who REALLY cared could keep her in a locked inpatient facility for longer than a few days... but, I know, "That's too expensive, who's going to pay the bill for us?" If she "can't help herself", and her family won't help her, why should I have a gun pointed at me and have to do it for them?

I have to goggle just a little bit at someone who sells themselves and takes piles of drugs feeling "distressed" and "betrayed" because someone wrote a story about it. That's just more deflection of responsibility.

0

maria52 Sept. 25, 2012 @ 3:06 p.m.

where did you extrapolate that from? nowhere in these comments or in the article did it say that kelly has continued on taking drugs "because someone wrote a story about it."

0

Kargawd Sept. 25, 2012 @ 1:59 p.m.

I know for a FACT that the Author of this story had the Consent of the person known as Kelly in this story to write it. The People that were Hurt and Betrayed by this whole Situation that was written about in this story are First and Formost Kelly's Family and Secondly Kelly's Friend's, not because of this story, but because of the Insanity that Kelly put everyone involved through during Her ordeal. Based on what I read in this story, it came across to Me that the Author was relaying her experience of the thing's that She witnessed while going through this with Her Friend and Friend's Family.This story is a perfect example of how out of control One's lives can become based on a few bad decisions.

0

joyfulmom Sept. 25, 2012 @ 9:03 p.m.

I KNOW FOR A FACT SHE DID NOT HAVE PERMISSION!!! I KNOW THE FAMILY AND KELLY AND NEITHER OF THEM GAVE PERMISSION!!!

0

concerned15011 Sept. 25, 2012 @ 3:25 p.m.

Kargawd, No, that is false. "Kelly did not give Jessica permission to humiliate her by writing this selfish article. I am a part of Kelly's extended family and am deeply saddened by the decision Jessica made and was encouraged to make by her professor. Maybe she got a good grade on her paper but I doubt that Jessica would include on her resume that she chose to be a contributor to our precious family's deep pain in this devastating situation with "Kelly". Let it be said that Jessica was not nearly as involved with the family as she let on. She witnessed a few impressionable and burdensome situations but as you can hear in her tone throughout her article she wasnt and certainly isnt now a compassionate friend. We love "Kelly" so much and are doing ALL we can for her. She had been recovering and making great changes in her life. This however, is a great setback and our family is paying the cost of an insensitive friend. "Kelly", incidently, had just text Jessica on her new phone to try to see how she was doing since they had not talked for so long. Jessica never said a word about her article that was to be published in just a few days. Jessica absolutely knew that "Kelly would be mortified to have any of her school friends and families know about her dark past. Any of us would feel the same. "Kelly" called Jessica after she was informed about the article by an old aquaintence (who didn't even think this could be true about her except that all the facts and family descriptions added up) and she asked Jessica how she could betray her like this. Jessica wouldn't even speak with her. She only text that she was sorry. This mean spirited, exposure has hurt every member of our family. And since the Reader won't remove the article from this website we ask that you keep us all in your prayers and please don't write any more insensitive or bitter comments to our already wounded family on this site.

0

maria52 Sept. 25, 2012 @ 4:47 p.m.

Gosh, my heart goes out to you. i'm so sorry for your pain.

0

Kargawd Sept. 25, 2012 @ 5:19 p.m.

I Respect Your "OPINION" on this matter. I do howevwer think that You should know that Jessica had cut Her ties and basically Her Friendship with Kelly long before She was contacted by one or both of Kelly's parent's and asked to Help them with Kelly and Her Situation, which I believe was wrong by them to lay that kind thing on a 19 or 20 year old girl. Jessica never Implied in Her story that She was Immersed in Their lives whatsoever, She was however exposed to numerous Dysfunctional situations that were a direct result of being asked to help Kelly and Her parent's out with the terrible situation that Kelly's bad decisions had caused. I am Truly sorry that it's You Family member being referenced, but You must know that every story written about these and all types of other situations never really sink in or hit home until it's one of Your Loved ones being referenced, that's just Human nature. Jessica's story was much more than just a good grade or a SD Reader story, it was Her way of putting closure on what She went through in that short crazy rollercoaster ride she went on with Kelly and Her Parents.Those are not Bitter or Insensative word's, they are TRUE word's..! I wish Kelly the best with her Effort towards recovery.

0

Kargawd Sept. 25, 2012 @ 3:50 p.m.

I am Glad that Kelly is trying to make better Life choices. She has Her whole Life ahead of Her..!

0

concerned15011 Sept. 25, 2012 @ 8:29 p.m.

Maria52, Thank you for your rational and kind thoughts. They are appreciated!

Kargawd, Im not sure why you think what I have stated is my opinion just because of when Jessica "cut ties" with "Kelly". You are absolutely right that "Kelly's" parents should have never asked for her help. The fact that they did doesnt beg betrayal on Jessica's part. Furthermore, plenty of other people's tragic circumstances over the years have "hit home" with me without ever being an part of my own family. In those cases, I grieve with them, not exploit them. I can't see how Jessica will ever "gain closure" on this situation now that she has done it at "Kelly's" expense and opened up "Kelly's" and our wounds and squeezed a lemon in them. As for bitter words, I apologize. I was referring to some of the comments by the readers. As for Jessica's words, bitter no, not really...incensitive, inconsiderate and condenseding...yes. Her words, for the most part were true but inappropriate to expose as you can see so many of the readers agree. You wish her the best and yet condone what Jessica has done ot "Kelly". The two don't match.

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joyfulmom Sept. 25, 2012 @ 8:35 p.m.

How any one could exploite their friend like this is beyond me! I happen to be a friend of this KELLY and her family and know the hardships and hurts she has gone through. She was a victim like all the others who have gone thruogh the same thing!!! YOU failed to tell everyone that KELLY is doing good now that she is getting counseling and painfully writing a documantary on what she has been through, what she has learned and hopefully how her story can help others!!! But your story has crushed her and made her relive the pain all over again!!! Shame on you...and how dare you call yourself her friend....with friends like you who needs enemies!!! Maybe she should write a story about your skeltons in your closet!!!

0

FreedomFighter Sept. 27, 2012 @ 12:20 p.m.

my letter to the editor that was published today in the Reader in reponse to this story: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/20...

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maria52 Sept. 27, 2012 @ 2:17 p.m.

loved your letter. so nice to hear a perspective of someone that is actually educated in the field. well done!

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CreativeLittleMonstersDotCom Dec. 28, 2013 @ 2:43 p.m.

Being someone who has survived multiple close friends and family members with life-destroying addictions, I find this article to be an important message to those in the same situation. You can't control another person, no matter how much you care about them, and letting their choices bring you down is its own form of self-destructive behavior. At some point, you have to let them go or else you will lose yourself.

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