Play looks at soul-crushing business of youngsters selling sex

Sixteen years. That's how long Amber Cregg spent trapped in a life of prostitution and sex trafficking. For seven of those years, Amber served as the "bottom" for a man known as Dion -- who is known in law enforcement circles for peddling both dr...

Amber and Detective Chanski in an emotional scene from "Bottom." DL NEWSPAPERS/Vicki Gerdes

Sixteen years. That’s how long Amber Cregg spent trapped in a life of prostitution and sex trafficking.

For seven of those years, Amber served as the “bottom” for a man known as Dion - who is known in law enforcement circles for peddling both drugs and young girls.

In other words, Dion is a pimp - though that is a term that Amber vehemently denies, particularly in relation to her.

“He’s my man,” she corrects Detective Charlie Chanski when he says that Dion was her pimp.

But six months ago, Amber got out of “the lifestyle” - and the story of how and why it happened, as well as what it really means for her future, is at the heart of the original theatrical play known as “Bottom,” which was presented Sunday at the Historic Holmes Theatre.


“I never liked anything about the lifestyle… I always wanted out,” Amber tells Chanski repeatedly.

Yet when asked what propelled her to finally leave Dion, she changes the subject. It’s only after repeated questioning that she reveals to Chanski and Lt. Martin (the woman who handles the department’s sex trafficking crimes) that she reveals it was seeing Dion beat up a 13-year-old girl named Coco that finally made her decide to leave.

The play, which was written by members of the Blank Slate Theatre, is filled with haunting - and quite often, terrifying - facts about the world of sex trafficking, particularly as it pertains to Minnesota.

When Chanski rants to Amber and Lt. Martin about “babies being sold for sex,” Martin informs him that the average age of girls being recruited into sex trafficking rings is between 12 and 14.

And as Amber points out, it’s not just the girls -there is also a demand for men, and even young boys, in “certain circles.”

Ultimately, when the detective questions Amber one too many times about whether or not Coco was “forced” into joining Dion’s group of girls, she finally explodes and informs him, “ No one chooses to become a prostitute.”

In other words, asking her whether or not Coco was forced into the lifestyle was redundant - of course she was forced, Amber snaps.

Despite the fact that she has been granted immunity from prosecution, Amber is obviously reluctant to discuss Coco - and her own role in bringing the young teen to the point of selling her body for sex.


The role of the “bottom,” as she acknowledges, is to “hold everything together” - which often means persuading the girls recruited by Dion to submit to the men who have bought and paid for a night in bed with them.

As the discussion proceeds, Amber gradually reveals more and more of her own tragic past, and how she was the victim of a similar setup, though she often cloaked the revelations in sarcasm and deflection.

By the play’s end, however, it’s hard not to feel sorrow not only for Coco, who remains deeply embedded in Dion’s organization, but also for Amber, who has been so beaten down by verbal and emotional abuse that even though she is no longer actively participating in sex trafficking, she will never be truly free of the scars it has left on her soul.

Sunday’s presentation of “Bottom” was hosted by three Detroit Lakes churches - the Congregational United Church of Christ, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Church, as well as a variety of local and regional sponsors.

It was followed by a 30-minute panel discussion featuring Becker County Attorney Gretchen Thilmony, Lakes Crisis & Resource Center Children’s Services Coordinator Susie Felt, Down Against Violence Everyday (D.O.V.E.) Shelter Coordinator Sonia Christensen, and Bailey Wethern, regional navigator for the Safe Harbor/No Wrong Door program in northern Minnesota.

The panel discussion touched on topics such as what services are available for victims of sex trafficking and where they can go to get help.

One of those resources is the Safe Harbor program, which helps any youth under age 18 who is being sexually exploited to gain access to supportive services - under Minnesota’s Safe Harbor legislation, these youth are to be treated as victims rather than criminals.

More information about the program is available at the Minnesota Department of Human Services website, , by searching for “Safe Harbor.”


For those who would like to learn more, the League of Women Voters-Minneapolis has also published a report, “Why Should We Care About Sex Trafficking?” that is available online at .

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes .

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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