Former Madam Wants to Help Victims of Sex Industry

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February 7, 2011; Source: New York Post | The woman who claims to have run the highest grossing escort service in United States history is now setting her ambitions on creating a nonprofit to help victims of sex trafficking. Kristen Davis, better known as the Manhattan Madam, and whose clients have included former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, says her nonprofit will be called Hope House and, according to the New York Post, will "provide shelter and social services for women in need."

Davis, who served a four-month prison term for prostitution, says she was motivated to start her nonprofit after hearing stories from other sex-industry workers forced into prostitution against their wills. They include a group of Ukrainian women, promised jobs in the U.S. as dancers, only to find themselves held captive and made to work as prostitutes until a sympathetic client aided their escape.

Because there are few places to help women like that, Davis plans Hope House as a full-scale shelter. She's aiming to have it in operation by 2013, although a 24-hour emergency help line is expected to start up within the next few months. To fund her venture, Davis is seeking support from private donors, and she's thinking of opening a thrift shop that would both provide women a place to work and help raise money for her endeavor.

Her model is New York's Housing Works, which operates several thrift shops in New York and uses revenues from the sales of donated goods to support people with AIDS and help the homeless. Davis, who ran for governor of New York last year, promising to legalize gambling, prostitution, pot, and gambling doesn't think anyone should question her motives. She says there's a big difference between those who chose to work as prostitutes and those forced to sell their bodies. "I never forced a girl to do anything."—Bruce Trachtenberg