This is Alexa’s Story. Alexa is 19 now. Her life was changed forever after being sexually abused by her swimming teacher at boarding school. She ran away from home at 13 and became a Kings Cross sex worker at the age of 14. She became addicted to heroin and was subsequently charged with trafficking drugs. Stepping Out was approached by her solicitor to intervene and get her back on her feet. Today we are by her side every step of the way.

Alexa’s story began when she was 5 years old and her parents divorced. Her father ran an importing business that often took him overseas. Alexa’s Mum struggled with mental health issues and found it hard to cope looking after Alexa after the divorce. Alexa was sent to boarding school and school holidays were spent shuffling between her parents and grandparents.

A betrayal of trust by a father figure

At the age of 10, Alexa’s swimming coach started taking a personal interest in her progress. He would often keep her back after class for extra training. He liked to refer to her as his ‘star pupil’ and said she was destined for great things. He would show her clips of swimmers winning Olympic medals and called her his ‘Madame Butterfly’.

For Alexa, he was the father figure she craved in her life and gradually he became more important to her than her own father. Alexa doesn’t remember when and how things became sexual but she does remember the confusion, guilt and shame she started feeling. She began to withdraw from the other girls and her marks at school suffered. She found it hard to concentrate in class and would regularly leave the school grounds during the day to walk and ‘hang out’ on the streets.

The wrong friends in the wrong places

Around this time, she discovered the lights and action of Kings Cross. She was young and pretty and had a Visa card that never ran out. It wasn’t long until she left school completely. She was relieved to leave everyone behind, especially her coach who had betrayed her trust. Alexa divorced herself from her family and found a new family – a family of sex workers, pimps, drug users and other runaways who always had time for her and loved being her friend.

When her credit was cut off things suddenly got very real. Alexa had been dabbling in drugs and now needed to find a way to pay for them. So at 14, Alexa became a sex worker. By 15 she had a full addiction to heroin and benzos. By 16 she had added ice to the mix and couldn’t recognise herself anymore. Her parents had given up on her after attempting to reach out to her for the first year after she left school. She always felt they gave up trying just a little too quickly.

Heroin, benzos and ice leave scars on the body. Alexa’s body was now showing deep scars. Her skin was pock-marked from incessant picking. Her body was thin and her arms were a minefield of track marks and collapsed veins. There were many days when she couldn’t work and the punters had lost interest. Alexa started selling drugs from her room in the boarding house because it was easier than standing on a street waiting to be picked up. She didn’t have to submit to men’s weird requests and she finally felt she was in charge. She saw herself as ‘self-employed’, a local business woman who was making her own living.

Occasionally, she would check herself into the local detox unit to give her mind and body a break. Each time she would resolve to get clean and move away from the Cross but eventually addiction and loneliness would draw her back. She didn’t feel she belonged anywhere. She felt she had nowhere to go. The Police soon shut down her business. The boarding house was raided and the dealers arrested.

Stepping Out stepping in

It was at this time, Alexa’s solicitor reached out to Stepping Out. Stepping Out was able to arrange a rehabilitation program, which could take her immediately. Stepping Out Case Managers worked closely with her while she was there for three months. They helped her apply for public housing to give her the stability she craved so much. She started seeing a specialist counsellor while she was still in rehab to help deal with the flashbacks and night terrors that haunted her once her mind was clear.

At the end of 3 months, Alexa proudly graduated from rehab. She said it was the first thing she had ever finished and was excited about the possibilities ahead of her.

Alexa is now living in a transitional property and is still supported by Stepping Out. She regularly attends the 12 Step program and has a sponsor. While life continues to be a challenge for Alexa, she takes it one day at a time and is striving to get better.

Alexa now has two goals: to finish her education and to see her swimming coach face justice. Stepping Out will continue to provide support to Alexa for the rest of her life.