If you think your custody battle was tough then I will kindly direct you to the story of Tanaha Koontz. The mother of three and former prostitute based in St. Petersburg, Florida says that she found herself without virtually any rights to her babies after her husband yelled “whore!” in court proceedings. But Tanaha alleges that it was her abusive husband who was sex trafficking her to begin with, pimping her out after losing his job. Unable to recover her children so far, Tanaha is now raising funds to tell her story — and that of many other women like her. A documentary that she hopes to entitle “Whoremom.”
On her website whoremom.org, Tanaha says that she was “abandoned” at 15 and became a homeless teen wandering around Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was then that she “fell into prostitution,” a profession that included an arrest and her first experience being trafficked by seemingly gracious pimp.
Tanaha stopped prostitution at the age of 19 after marrying. She writes that she was certain that she had given up sex work until her physically abusive husband started asking her to give it another go:
I thought that I would never be in that life again. I suffered abuse year after year knowing that I should stay with him because he is a good provider. He didn’t abuse the kids, only me. So I stayed. When he lost his job in 07 he could not find another job. After two months he cried and asked me if I thought I could put ads in again. I knew what that meant. By the next day I had an ad up on the internet in the Erotic Services section of Craigslist. I would have never imagined life turning out this way.
While she worked at night, her husband apparently stayed home to care for their three children. But his abuse continued and Tanaha began to contemplate divorce, among other sources of income:
Six months after my abusive husband began trafficking me on the internet I began to resent him, and thought that if I had to be a hooker, there was no reason to put up with his abuse anymore. I could afford the child care and rent on my own and began to work toward becoming independent from him, and furthering my non prostitution related ideas for websites. I began to study web development and created an adult network online though it has yet to show any profit.
She claims that if was not longer after the D word came into play that her husband began to become more violent, resulting in him being arrested twice. She further alleges that he kidnapped their children. But when she reported the abduction, police were less inclined to help her. The gamechanger? Prostitution allegations:
You would think that state agencies would help me to recover from an abusive husband that fancied himself a pimp, and had more than a dozen documented cases of domestic violence reported. I thought they would help me recover my children but in reality the opposite happened and my children have not lived with me in three very long painful years.
Apparently the State of Florida thinks whores are far more dangerous than wife beaters. Or maybe they reduced the charges in their minds to “whore beater” in my husbands case. He never admitted to being my pimp, and I never admitted to being a whore. I lied and used the “time and companionship is not illegal to sell” defense claiming I was doing nothing wrong so that they would give me back my children. They agreed eventually, and dropped the prostitution allegations, but they never returned my children because they knew I was a whore.
Furthermore, her husband claims that he only started assaulting Tanaha when he learned that she was a “whore.” And despite documented instances of abuse, her husband was granted custody.
Tanaha writes that she was inspired to develop “Whoremom” from these traumatic experiences — a documentary addressing not just her own circumstances, but the prejudice of sex work in child custody cases. Sounds like her voice, and that of many others, is sorely needed.