This page is dedicated to women who have lived through and survived prostitution. On here, they bravely share their firsthand accounts.
Thirteen Years Out and Still Paying a Price
“I started working as a call girl in my early twenties. At the time, I thought it was my free choice, but as I’ve matured, I’ve realised that it wasn’t a “free” choice. It was a choice made by a mind damaged by childhood abuse. All the women I met when I was working had also suffered abuse as children, many far worse than the abuse I went through. I already had post traumatic stress disorder after sexual assaults when I was young. Working made it worse. I was raped and beaten on a couple of jobs. The media don’t like to show that happening to call girls, but it does. I wasn’t the only one either. The women I hung around with were all top London call girls. They were also raped and beaten on jobs too. And no one does anything. Not the agencies, the madams or the police. No one cares, and that’s even if they believe you, or believe you weren’t asking for it.
I’ve been out of it for thirteen years but my post traumatic stress disorder is worse now. I make bad relationship choices because I don’t know what’s wrong and what’s right in a normal, healthy relationship. And actually, I have had one with a woman, but I got bored. My mind is messed up from working. If I’d have healed from my childhood abuse, instead of acting out promiscuously then deciding I may as well get paid for it, I am sure my life would be different today.
Q was my friend, who is interviewed in the book In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl. She says so much but some things stick in my mind, like when she says, I could never trust a man 100 per cent, I’ve seen some really sick things and it stays in your mind. I’ve got those sick things stuck in my mind and I’m suspicious of all men, thinking they are paedophiles or have some other sick perversion.
After working as a call girl for a while, dissociation wasn’t enough to separate my mind and body. I ended up shooting heroin and crack. Although shooting up nearly killed me a hell of a lot of times when I overdosed (mostly on purpose), it’s actually one of the things that got me out of working as a call girl. I couldn’t go on jobs with trackmarks and abscesses. I didn’t want to work on the streets as I didn’t think I was emotionally and mentally strong enough to see that many clients a day to earn enough for my heroin and crack habits. That’s really why I got clean. Then in a 12 step meeting, I found a sponsor. She said I couldn’t work and stay clean, that it wouldn’t work and I’d end up using again. I took her advice and that was the end of my working. But 13 years later, I am still paying the price for it.”
XLondonCallGirl – Blog | Twitter
Barter Sex, Survival Sex, Predators and Perps: The Everyday World of the Teenage Runaway
“The huge semi trailer truck slowed to a stop. I breathed a long sigh of relief. I had been standing on that empty stretch of highway in the high desert mountains of New Mexico for hours. My head ached from the unrelenting sun. My canteen had run dry hours ago. I still had a few morsels of granola in my bag, but my mouth was too dry to think of eating. The sick puppy, the reason for my hitchhike journey to the nearest vet 100 miles away in Tularosa, struggled to his feet and wagged his tail weakly when he saw me getting ready to climb up into the cab.
I gathered my belongings: my battered Army surplus knapsack, my puppy, and a piece of trash that I hastily scooped up from the road berm. Only this was no ordinary piece of trash. It was an old paper cup from some fast-food joint or other, found along this or that roadside. Stuffed inside it, underneath some other trash, was a baggie containing a quarter of a lid of pot, more or less.
This was my strategy for hitchhiking with dope. If a cop stopped me, the trash stayed by the side of the road and whatever else went down, at least I didn’t get picked up for possession. Whoever else stopped for me got the once-over, and if my radar detected any possibility of narcotics agent or other dangerous type, the pot stayed where it was. Better to lose that than my freedom.
Truck drivers were never narcs. So I snatched my stash and stuffed it in my bag as I headed for the idling semi.
I struggled up the steps, hanging onto the grab-bar with one hand while clutching the puppy and my bag with the other. At last, I reached the coolness of the air-conditioned cab, heaved myself into the passenger seat, plopped the puppy on my lap, reached over and shut the door while exchanging pleasant greetings with the driver, who put the truck into gear and moved slowly into the lane.
And then I saw the hand-scrawled sign on the dashboard:
GAS, GRASS, OR ASS: Nobody rides for free.
Fast forward fifteen years. I am now a resident physician, working in a clinic that serves street kids. I’m actually the clinic director, because nobody else wants the position. I work with two nurse practitioners who know more than I ever will, and I am their dedicated student.
I am at the business end of a gynecology exam table. The thirteen-year-old girl who is allowing me to examine her diseased nether parts is crying because I am telling her my findings. She has several sexually transmitted diseases. Two are curable; one is not. I help her to sit up, and look into her reddened eyes.
“Look, if you don’t get off the street you are going to die. You’ll overdose, or someone will kill you, or you’ll kill yourself. You have to come in off the street. We have people here who can help you get off the drugs, get your high school equivalency, get a job, an apartment. You can get your life back.”
“But you don’t know what it’s like!” She wails.
“Oh, but I do.” I look at her gravely.
Yes, I do. I know what it is like to walk the streets all night because I don’t have a place to stay. I know what it’s like to have to fuck some stranger in order to not have to walk the streets all night. I know what it’s like to have to do that night after night after night. I know what it’s like to have to do whatever some pervert wants, just to get something to eat and maybe a dollar or two.
I know what it’s like to be sleeping at somebody’s house and have their friends come to my bed in the middle of the night. I know what it’s like to have to live in a garage and steal candy from the candy dishes in unlocked houses in the suburbs in order to have a respite from the streets. I know what it’s like to watch somebody die from a drug overdose, and see him taken away in the ambulance. I know what it’s like to see somebody kill himself with a gun, and then sit in jail until I was cleared, and thrown back out on the street. All before I was seventeen years old.
I know what it’s like.
There’s prostitution for money. That we know. And then there’s prostitution’s poorer cousin: survival sex, barter sex, whatever you want to call it. Trading sex for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, drugs….oh, yes. Drugs. I know what it’s like to wake up next to someone I never saw before, and feel the crust of white powder on my nose. That is what was disdainfully called a “coke whore.”
In those days I would do almost anything for cocaine. But that was what made me quit, waking up next to strangers. It chilled my bones to think I had let the drug take over, to steal every last shred of my self-respect.
What happened to me, that I threw myself away like that? I will tell you. It is simply this: my mother used to call me “whore.” Not that I ever did anything to earn that. I was incredibly innocent, an ingénue, when I was growing up. I was a virgin until I was sixteen. I hardly dated. I was into music, and horses, and poetry, and reading, and writing. But my mother called me horrible names, and had done so as long as I could remember.
And then one day it happened. I know what it’s like to be drugged and dragged into a dark basement by a man I met at the diner where I worked as a waitress, and raped so brutally that it took two surgeries to correct the physical damage. He dropped me off at home, my clothing soaked in blood, even my new spring coat, which I stuffed into the back of my closet. I know what it’s like to be brutally raped and never tell anyone.
And I know what it’s like to run away from home after that, because my mother kept calling me a whore every time she lost her temper, which was many times a day, and now I had lost my virginity so I must really be a whore. And I wanted to die, and I knew that if I stayed there I would kill myself, so I ran away.
I know what it’s like not to have any choices. When you are sixteen, very pretty, and on the run, you are fair game for the predators. You want something to eat? Pay the price. Somewhere to sleep? A ride to the vet? A hit of acid, so you can escape from this crazy world you have landed in, for a few hours anyway? You can get almost anything, if you pay the price.
Anything, that is, except for real love. And that’s the real price. I don’t know what real love is. I don’t know what it looks like, feels like, acts like. The only kind of “love” I have ever had is the one-way kind, the kind that is paid for in goods and services, and evaporates like dew in the morning, or explodes into violence in the middle of the night.
An Ex-Hooker’s Letter to Her Younger Self
“Dear twenty-year old Stella,
Work hard on learning to ask for help. It’s the only way you’ll ever break free. No one ever does anything alone. You don’t have to.
You’ll learn how to make the men happy. The happier they are the nicer they treat you. You’ll get very good at being a hooker. But when the Johns say “baby you were born for this” that doesn’t mean its true.
Now when most men come near you feel a stabbing at your eyes, your throat, and your gut that you know isn’t real. You don’t want to admit it but you’re terrified. You start, you tremble. Your hands shake. Think about it, you’re being stabbed a lot these days. This is a quite reasonable reaction to being used by man after man, day after day, in this prison of a brothel. It doesn’t mean you are so miserably flawed that you can’t do anything but be a hooker.
Being a hooker doesn’t make you subhuman. It’s not OK for your (white) pimps to smack you and tell you they’ll kill you.
You have to work up the nerve to pay a cashier for a soda. You’re too scared to ask that guy behind the deli counter to make you a sandwich. This isn’t weakness, it’s biology. Trauma changes your brain. Your hippocampus, where you form narrative memory in the brain, shrinks. This is a symptom of PTSD – a neurophysiologic response to repetitive trauma –not evidence that you deserve to be in prostitution.
In the middle of the winter in the middle of the night when that guy in the Doubletree suite invites you to sit while he pours you a seltzer trust your gut and back out of there before the five guys you can’t see who are waiting in the bedroom have a chance to get between you and the door.
Being vulnerable means you’re alive. There’s no shame in it. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person. You don’t have to apologize for doing what you must to survive.
When Samantha tries to stop working for your pimp Johnny, make her get out of the city. Otherwise two weeks later Nicole, the madam who works with Johnny, will show you Samantha’s diamond initial ring and tell you Johnny murdered her. Though you’ll always hope she was lying, you doubt it.
You’ve lost all sense of the linear — time disappeared and you felt it leave. Now you’re living in the immediate and eternity. It’s scary and bewildering, but you need this — you need each moment to stretch infinitely so that you can be acutely aware of each man’s tiny movements and shifts in expression, which can reveal a threat before it happens. This hyperawareness will save your life. One day you’ll see this being untethered from time as a kind of grace.
When that shiny classical pianist you meet at Au Bon Pain says he wants to know everything about you don’t believe him.
A lot of what’s happening doesn’t make sense now but it will later. That habit you have of writing poems in your mind to the beloved you haven’t met yet as you’re riding in cabs to calls? There’s something to it.
Your ability to perceive beauty is part of your resilience and survival. When a man is on top of you watch the wind-swirled leaves out his window. Seize the gusty joy you feel as you run three blocks to a bodega to buy condoms between calls at 3 AM. When you think for a minute you see that friend, who’s death you never got over, standing in the brassy light under a weeping linden, be grateful. All this has a purpose.
Being a hooker can seem to mean you’ve lost everything you hoped to be, but that’s not true. You’ve splintered into a million pieces, but you’re still you. You’re alive. It’s in the spaces between those pieces where you learn to feel how other people are feeling. It hurts so much you’re sure it’ll kill you, but it won’t. Later when you’re out of the life it’ll be so easy to be happy. The mundane will buoy you.
When your madam sends you to the Parker Meridien at 3 AM and you meet a British professor who says he wants to help you, believe him. He will set you up in a beautiful condominium across from Lincoln Center that he deeds in your name. Of course you’ll have everything to do with this — you are so “good” at being a hooker, so “good” at fucking that you can make a guy want to buy you a condo. Shame is a hollow stone in the throat.
During the two years that this voracious man ‘keeps’ you as his private prostitute the condo will come to feel like a platinum trap. But it’s still your chance to get out and heal. Take it.
After you’ve sold the condominium and are living in a graduate dorm at Columbia University, a man with eyes like blue shattered glass will sit beside you in the cafeteria. When he begins to speak you know he’s the unmet beloved you’ve been writing poems to all these years. You’ll try to run away, but he won’t let you. Fourteen years later the two of you will be hiking through pink granite outcroppings with your Labrador retriever. You’ll feel like the freest woman in the world.
One afternoon when you’re twenty-one you’ll be at the Museum of Metropolitan of Art with your best friend Gabriel, who’s a hustler, a male prostitute. When he says you ‘remind him of his death’, don’t lash back. Even though he told you the doctor said he didn’t have that rare new virus named AIDS, it would behoove you to realize he’s still coughing.
Stop thinking about your own hurt. Don’t lash back with that vicious phrase your mother’s said to you so many times –” I hope you die a slow death.” Don’t tell Gabriel you never want to see him again and storm out of the sculpture gallery. Or it will be the last time you see him. Gabriel will die of AIDS five months later. When he said you reminded him of ‘his own death’ he was trying to tell you he was dying. You’ll regret what you said for the rest of your life. But even more you’ll regret running away from his friendship.
Say forgive me.
Say I love you.
P.S. I’m sure my mom learned to say “I hope you die a slow death” from her dad.
This is a tribute to Cheryl Strayed‘s transcendent letter to her younger self. Her letter’s form gave me a pitcher that I filled with my life. A big shout out to Dublin Call Girl who’s thank you letter to punters is already a classic.”
Stella Marr - Secret Life of a Manhattan Call Girl Blog | Stella Marr: Call Girl Undercover Blog | Survivors Connect Network Blog | Twitter. An interview with Stella Marr can be read here.
Memory and Trauma
“Trauma is a word that I thought until recently didn’t really apply to me.
Trauma is what happens when your house goes on fire, after you’ve been raped or attacked etc etc. I did not know that trauma could strike years after the incident in question. I did not think that nearly ten years after the abuse I went through happened, it could only now bring anger, pain, humiliation and terror. I did not think that two years after a punter attempted to anally rape me that only know I would feel the anger and the helplessness. I was upset at the time, of course, but I was also business as usual the next day and didn’t think about it again. The ‘it’ being that I just survived something huge. I gave no time for the shock to sink in. The memory of that night, however, stays around, and now I can recall it in near crystal clear clarity. I can also recall exactly where this man lives, or lived, but cannot unfortunately remember which apartment. Not that I would go the police. A prostitute reporting rape is one thing, but attempted rape? I should call myself lucky.
Willingly having sex for money, was not, I thought at the time, traumatic. I’m finally beginning to see things a bit clearer now, and be nicer to myself about surviving it all.
I can’t remember most of the four to five years I spent working as an escort. Nothing is chronological. My memories, or bits of them, betray my own knowledge of what happened. I’m angry that I can’t remember it all in detail. I realise at the same time that this is really an urge to go back in time and right these wrong, mentally, at least.
I can guess my age if I remember where I was living in at the time, or if I had the car then or not, but the majority of it is lost in my mind somewhere. I know that I had a couple of regular punters but I have no idea how long they were regulars for.
I have nightmares that I am now friends with some punters or men who have sexually assaulted me and am being overly nice to them in the dream and trying to get them to like me and be nice to me. Be nice to me. Like a child when I used to cry at my mother and later the abuser ‘Please just be nice to me’.
These days everything is triggering flashbacks. Everything. When you are in it, there are no flashbacks to have, the trauma only sets in afterwards, when it is safe to remember, when your mind knows that the body is now protected. The mind knows the right time.
Every lift feels familiar, and though I’m rarely in them, every hotel lobby hits me with a body memory so strong that I instinctively almost take on the confident march I used to have, and march past the reception to the lifts. I haven’t been in an actual hotel room since I stopped escorting over two years ago, and I don’t plan on staying in one again. A friend asked me to meet him outside a hotel I’d had countless appointments in in town recently. I locked my bike nearby and just stayed there watching out for him. I was going nowhere near it.
Cycling past the Camden Court Hotel has finally stopped making me feel…. I can’t explain it. Like my stomach is shrinking inside me. I would grip my handlebars and stare straight ahead furiously thinking of other things as I went past. But my body doesn’t forget, it knows exactly where it is and it doesn’t want to be there. This is where I was routinely subjected to being put into a tiny schoolgirl outfit, beaten with a belt and riding whip (and whatever else he wanted), molested, photographed, and blackmailed by a middle aged abuser who was in my life from age 16 to 21.
I have memories of pressing buttons in lifts, checking my makeup, knocking on hotel doors, pulling into hotel car parks off motorways. I have memories of sneaking a punter into my house that I shared late at night. I have a strong memory of sitting on my bed waiting for a young punter to stop rifling through my studenty things and looking at my photographs. I remember a man who wouldn’t speak to me with a diseased crusty dick that I sucked. I remember a overly wealthy man in a posh Dublin suburb in a huge house, nearly taking the piss out of my humanity and normality and young girlness with his attitude. I remember him ordering me around the room, ‘turn around, take off your clothes, on the bed, over here’ etc etc’. He didn’t do anything particularly bad to me. But the way he treated me as a piece of malfunctioning office equipment has long lasting effects. It was early on as well. I hate reading reviews for girls that say ‘she’s new to this’, it makes my heart break that her naivety is so apparent, that she is still young and pliable and doesn’t hate herself yet.
It feels like it was yesterday, last night, this morning. These memories are literally present in my mind. Why am I only getting them now? Because my mind has grown up, because I have realised that what happened to me was abuse and was also my entry into prostitution. That it wasn’t my fault. I’ve finally realised this. It wasn’t my fault. Even when I was writing an ad on a website, I was making a bad choice, but it wasn’t my fault that I was making that choice.
Are these memories traumatic ones to have? Some are, some are not. Some punters were lovely, some were not. The level of violence in each memory isn’t what is what’s important. What is traumatic is the retelling in my mind of all the memories, whether they are bad ones or not. I don’t feel good about any memory, let’s put it like that. What is infuriating and causes me sleepless nights and a lot of frustration at myself, are the bits of memories; I’ll remember a hotel door opening, then being in the bathroom getting changed, then nothing. These are the most irritating, and strangely, more upsetting memories than the crystal clear one of the would be rapist. Why, because I have no control over that experience any more. The memory of the would be rapist I can go over and over in my mind, rewrite the ending where I win, I can take some satisfaction in knowing that I know nearly every detail of that night. But the experiences I can only wonder at. What happened in the gaps? Why can’t I remember? Why should he the punter get to remember what he did to me and I can’t? Was it so bad that my mind wants me to protect me from it or is it simply a forgettable experience? My mind winds up every day with these thoughts. The memories of the abuse are harder to deal with. They are darker, and the thoughts that go along with them even darker.
I try to keep together a veneer of worthfullness and normalness to keep the friends I do have still wanting to stay around me. I panic if I don’t hear from someone close to me for too long. I think paranoid thoughts like they have discovered ‘something’ (what, i don’t know) about me and are trying to distance themselves as far away from me as I can. I wonder why they don’t ask questions about what I did. Is it to protect me, or are they disgusted and don’t want to know? I cannot bring these things up for fear of coming across as a paranoid lunatic. I can’t talk about memories or the frustration of the lack of them, for fear of making them uncomfortable or nervous or just sad for me. And all I want to do is shout them out from the rooftops, that this is what’s happened to me and it was bad. IT WAS BAD.
It’s strange when you think of massive things happening to people, you expect them to be also non human, bigger than human, superhuman. Like meeting your favourite musician or actor, you realise how small they are, how we are all the same, how no matter what the enormity is of what a person has gone through or done, they are still just a tiny human trying to get with everyday life. I’m beginning to realise this about myself. I am not going to turn into a superhuman because of this, I am simply going to be able to go into the supermarket without having to sit in the car avoiding human contact for fifteen minutes first. Internally, that is being superhuman, for me anyway.”
DublinCallGirl - An interview with DublinCallGirl can be read here.
Despair Hits My Heart
“I have been coming back into life – I know this is good. But this post is about my confusion, my grief and my despair that I still do not understand what it is to be alive – beyond being a role.
I will write in the back parts of my mind, I will try to drag out the stuff that scares me, that blocks me, that still make wonder if I am still nothing but an object finding how to please others.
I don’t know how to be human, that it not some philosophical statement, not said for pity or sympathy – it is said because the sex trade made me into a sub-human, into nothing but consumable goods.
I can copy humans and find how to fit in with humans – but underneath, hidden from view, is a deep emptiness.
I am like a machine waiting for instructions, I am off when alone – when not working or talking.
I need an audience to end my deadness.
I am learning I do not have to please.
Have to please to still safe.
Have to please to avoid danger.
Have to please to be seen.
Have to please to stay invisible.
Have to please by speaking to their language.
Have to please by inventing truths about myself.
The role of the prostitute is to please without thought, to please without emotions, to please without knowing a past, to please without having pain.
The prostitute is never real as a human, she can never have the right to feel, to have dreams, to know a past or have a future.
The things that make a human a human are stolen from the prostituted.
How do I survive without a despair that seems to never end?
How can you remain human when you are sexually tortured so many times it is your routine?
How do you remain human when every women-hating word, concepts and ideals are placed under your skin until you lose what or who you are?
I was whore, I was slut, I was cunt, I was manipulator of men, I was happy hooker, I was pretend girlfriend, I was escort, I was bitch, I was preventing real rapes to real women, I was lover of degradation, I was made with no pain threshold, I had a heart of gold, I do anything for money, I could be killed coz I was nothing alive.
I was made all that and more – but I was never allowed to be human.
I cry beyond despair as the language about the prostituted in nearly every contexts keeps the prostituted as sub-humans.
But to become truly human, I know many exited have to face and know the depths of what they were made – more than what was done to them – what they made by society and the sex trade taking away their access to their own humanity.
Of course, we were made dead by the thousands of rapes, batterings, sexual torturing and closeness of a violent death.
But what made us dead, was the constant remainders it was more than the sex trade destroying us – it was being surrounded by too much of society not caring what happens to the prostituted.
It must know and face that we live with the knowledge to be prostituted is to be nothing in life, and thrown away in death.
We live in a world that would avoid prostitution unless it thrown into their faces – and then make excuses for its existence.
It is the oldest profession, it always been with us, it just part of male nature, it is too big to confront.
No woman would do it unless she enjoys, it pays better than McDonald’s, it a nasty job but someone has to do it.
I wouldn’t judge someone’s choices, some women have high libidos, it can be safe enough, it is ok if kept firmly closed behind doors.
Society refuses to know what it is to be prostituted.
As they refuse to know, to see, to hear, and to feel the realities of the prostituted – we are being routinely raped, battered, sexually tortured and murdered.
The prostituted are in conditions of slavery, and are being wiped from this planet.
We live in a world that call it adult entertainment or a business exchange.
“From a very very young age I had to learn how to survive each day, with or without an adult to guide me. I never knew God when I was very little, and if I did I know I would have coped more with a lot of things. For many many years I blamed God for what I had to go through as a young women, I kept asking Him the same questions: “WHY”, why did I had to go through so much in order to still battle as a young women, a mother and wife. For many years He did answer me, I just never listened. It was a journey to come to where I am today, a journey with lots and lots of tears and sadness, but through all this, He was always with me and still is till the end. I was broken, He put me back together again, I was shattered , He picked up the pieces, I was unable to trust and to love, His love restored me, I am not saying my life is perfect now, I am saying that He is in control of my life, no matter what, and because of Him, I can lay down my head on His shoulders for comfort. He moulded me to be who I am today, I never understood why certain things happens in life, but at the end of the day I know now, He does have a plan.
We were very very poor, very, I was still a little girl, around 4, 5 years old that I remember my brother , sister and I had to steal food for a living. They had to climb through fences late at night to go into vegetable gardens to steal our supper. Alcohol was the ruler in our house, it controlled my parents every day. My father was a way a lot of times, and that left my mom at home alone a lot, from being alone, she had boyfriends entertaining her most of the times. As I am the youngest, I was staying at home while my siblings will go to school, when my mom was drunk and one of her boyfriends came to visit, she would tie me up a big tree and tell me to shut up. I would be standing by the tree tied up for hours, while the boyfriend or friend was entertaining her.
When my mother was drunk she use to get very aggressive, my sister use to hide me in the closets for hours, she would bring bread and water, she was my mother, my sister was the one looking after me. I never understood why this was happening. There were days that we would go to sleep without food, but alcohol was the ruler. I guess in my brothers heart, he was battling with his own demons and pain, as little as 6 years old I was given alcohol to shut my mouth, the only way my brother could get rid of his pain, was by abusing me, sexually. My days was complete with alcohol, pain killers and molestation. My sister never knew about my brother abusing me. Whenever she could she would have hid me in the closet.
I was sexually molested until the age of 14, I was even molested by one of my brothers teachers, he stayed at a farm, and that was our escape from home time to time. My parents got divorced when I was 14 years old, my mom took off with another man, during the times she had many affairs, which I was mostly involved. Many nights her boyfriend will pick her and myself up while my dad was passed out at home and he would take us to a hotel, many nights, I would run away, hitch hiking back home, as little as 10-14 years old.
They got divorced and my mom left without me, I was taken away by the Welfare and was placed with other people for a while. After that I was placed back with my mother and her soon to be husband in a small little town outside Bloemfontein. At the age of 16 years old, when I came from school one day I found my mother shot and killed, the case is still open at the Highcourt in Bloemfontein, as it never was resolved. Was she killed, or did she commit suicide, for months I worked closely with the police to investigate, after the court case that time, which was very difficult I had no place to stay, so I end up staying with my brother and his wife.
I left school and start to look for a job, I got sold to a Escort Agency for 8 months. I was told to go to a place for an interview, I never went home, I stayed there for 8 months. I was abused and sexually abused by different men, I was very very young. I could not handle it anymore, so I ran away, I stayed in Bloemfontein on the streets for a long time. My stepmother took me in and my life started to change. During the time that I was 14 to 17 years old I was involved in Satanism, I hardly new what it was , when it was exposed, I had the police escorting me to school for protection.
By the time that I was 7 years old I was addicted to pain killers. I was a prostitute for 8 months and it was hell. I was hated by many and I hated many. I slept on streets, I was an alcoholic and I was alone. I am very afraid of being in a small room, as I was kept in a closet for hours for protection. I saw my mother having sex with many men infront of me, which I would then hit the road and run away.
I tried to commit suicide two times, both times I ended up in institutions, I had sleeping therapy and 4 brain shocks, treatments. I hated my life, I always wished I was never born, I was told by many I wish you were never born, but God created me and He created me for a reason. The day before my mom passed away I was told that the father that brought me up was not my father, I did confront him before he passed away in 2010, and I was told I am not his daughter.
I am a better person today, yes I do have flaws and yes I make mistakes every day, but am I stronger…Yes….I am. I have a very very strong and soft spot in my heart for people that are abused, sexually and emotionally. I have a certain soft heart for prostitutes, I hate human trafficking as it is a evil on its own. I have a soft spot for children, being victims of molestation and being abused. If there is anything I can do to help, I will go out of my way. There is hundreds of people out there that need a hand, what CAN I do to help! A soft hand, a soft smile, and eyes that can tell another person, I love you, Jesus loves you, I am here to help, is what they need.. How Jesus loves His people, how big is the tears that falls down his face every day!
I love God and I live for Him, I am an instrument in His hands and whatever and wherever He wants to take me, I am willing. Please understood there is many many people out there living in hell, it is things we as humans don’t want to talk about, but we MUST, it is the truth, hundreds of kids are being molested, sexual slaves, sold out, and here we do nothing, It is time to TALK and safe lives!
To God all the Glory and I am thanking Him for being in MY life. I love Him deeply.”
A Child Forced into Prostitution
“I spent three years working as a prostitute, from the age of 13 til I left school at 16. Not that I wanted to work – I’d gotten involved with a guy in his late teens who lived near my school, and it all went from there.
People seem to be under the impression that we ‘choose’ to work as prostitutes. It’s an argument that falls with its first assumption, because, hey, define ‘choice’. Selling your body being the last option you have to survive, or because it’s all you’ve been brought up to know, isn’t in any way ‘choice’ at all, especially not when you add on extra pressures like a family to feed. Yet it’s exactly these reasons why the vast majority of women work in prostitution.
An aside – I’m going to talk about women here, because I am primarily identified as one, and because I don’t know enough about male experiences of prostitution to ever claim that I could speak for them too. I knew a few guys who worked also, and it seemed as though we shared some experiences but maybe not others. I don’t think male survivors of prostitution get anywhere near the help and support they need (if indeed they get any at all). This needs to change. In a society where men are taught to view sex as always desirable, I should imagine it’s even more difficult for male survivor of prostitution to speak out.
Anyway, back to choice. I didn’t choose prostitution, and I don’t think my case is an isolated one either. I’d seen this guy a few times. We flirted. As a kid that had already been sexually abused for years and who was very unpopular, withdrawn and unhappy in school, attention from an attractive older teenage boy felt great. Our relationship quickly became sexual, which I had no problem with.
And then he brought along a friend. No, I didn’t want to have sex with his friend too, certainly not with him watching. I felt he was taking advantage of me. So I did what any female would do in that situation, and said no.
He then punched me in the face.
I think it was shock more than anything. I was used to being creeped around and manipulated into sex, but out-and-out violence was an utter shock, as was the fact that both of them laughed about it and didn’t seem to see any problem with what they were doing. My so-called boyfriend then grabbed me, and, well, held me down and raped me in front of his friend. Then invited his friend to do the same.
And so it went on from there. He lived very close to my school, so he always knew where to find me. He’d wait for me at breaktimes, or after school. After it being one of his friends it was then two – with “come on, you were okay the last time” as an excuse. There was never any choice, it just built up, layer upon layer of abuse until very quickly he was collecting me from school and taking me to flats, every schoolday, where groups of men would be waiting – having already agreed with him what they’d do. Some would have sex with me, some had paid just to watch, but it was always done in a group setting.
The sex bothered me less than the violence and humiliation. A group of guys together very quickly turned terrifying, and there were often men there whom I knew had wives and kids and who were ostensibly the ‘quiet’ type who’d never do anything ‘like that’…until they got in a group of their friends and everyone else was doing it too. I won’t detail things, because I’m also aware that there are sick f*cks out there in the world who’d get off on even that, but I was regularly slapped, beaten, kicked, spat on, mocked, laughed at, and of course raped. I didn’t want any of the sex, but they always told me that I did. They’d goad each other into doing more and more things, some sexual, some violent – it became like some sort of competition for them to see how far they could go. The shame kills me now, still, more than the bleeding, torn skin, burns and broken bones ever did. The shame and self-hate is the real poison. Of course, you’re told it’s all your fault, that there’s just something about you that makes them act that way, or that you like it really. It’s always your fault.
Everyone knew about it, too. My pimp (no way I was calling him my boyfriend by this time) seemed to really enjoy making sure the kids in my school knew what was going on. He’d use as many methods as possible to humiliate and frighten me, and making sure everyone knew what a slag I was was a brilliant way of doing that – it ensured I got bullied, so had no friends on my side. He was obvious in collecting me from school. He invited boys from the years above me in school to watch his ‘sessions’. He’d wipe cum on my clothes then take me back to school in them. One weekend (I only worked on schoolnights) I bumped into him in town when I was with my mother, and he walked right up to her and smiled in her face. Of course, she wanted to know who he was and I had absolutely no way of telling her…
I got no money. So no, it wasn’t magically all better because I was paid for it. Yes, adults in positions of authority knew – including my mother. But the questions they asked were all framed in disbelief – “this apparent involvement in prostitution” and the like – and their only reasoning was to get me to stop skipping school. To them, I was being an annoying teenager deliberately causing trouble. I was more frightened of my pimp and what he could do to me than I was of their threats of vague legal action, so I said nothing when they asked about me working. I had no choice anyway. If I was in school, my pimp would find me. I didn’t want to piss off the powers that be, of course, but it wasn’t like I had an option.
I didn’t use drugs as I had no access to them, but I used to sniff glue and butane gas when I could. My biggest fear, apart from being killed, was getting pregnant – as I was under 16, I wasn’t allowed to be prescribed the pill, despite me sneaking into the local clinic to ask for it. I didn’t know where to get condoms from (I had no idea they would ever be given away free and no-one at the clinic mentioned it), so condom use was entirely dependent on my pimp and punters. I got into the routine of washing myself out with a mix of hot water and disinfectant, as it was the only way I could think of to prevent infection and pregnancy. Despite a few scares, I never got pregnant but I did have endless infections, thrush, and by the time I was 19 I’d developed cervical cancer.
I left prostitution when I left school – I moved away. It was the only way out that I could think of. I had to go back to the city where I grew up around seven years later and actually saw my ex-pimp walking down the street not long after. He recognised me. I hid in a shop, and it took all my strength not to throw up in fear. Thankfully he was gone when I finally emerged.
I’d like to say that I’m over it, but I’m not. Even now, I’m scared of people – men in particular, especially groups of men. I tried to get over this for years, thinking I was being big and brave by going to pubs and football games alone, but I’d recognise faces from the crowd…regulars. And despite the fact that they didn’t recognise me, it guts me even now that they’re happily walking around as if they’re perfectly normal, and I’m constantly terrified. I moved away again five years ago and although I feel a little safer where I live now, there is still the absolute nauseous panic when guys start with the sexist jokes, or look at a woman in a certain way, or worse still, joke about how cool it is to go to strip clubs or pay for sex. It’s also amazing how many people will use your history as a reason to discount your opinions: “well, that’s just *your* experience”, or “you’re just overemotional because you were abused – no-one *normal* has a problem with these things”.
The current so-called liberal trend to decriminalising prostitution is an open invitation for the abuse of women. Sorry, but the entire basis of prostitution rests on inequality, and decriminalising the demand says such inequality is fine – sexualised, even. Time after time academic research shows that the vast majority of women in prostitution want to leave, yet the tiny minority who are lucky enough to have the ‘choice’ to work and have their boundaries and wishes respected are given far more publicity – after all, it pleases the male majority to hear this, and there’s nothing quite like male approval, is there? (I’m being sarcastic). I’m told over and over that ‘some women like it’ and that means it should be legal and fine for men to demand sex via pay. I’ve been lectured by women working by choice on how illiberal I am for wanting to see demand for prostitution criminalised. Evidently these women either don’t, or don’t want to, see their privilege – most women in prostitution do NOT have free choice, they don’t have their wishes respected, and no is frequently ignored. How could it not be? The whole point of prostitution is that a man pays for someone who won’t say no, who will do whatever it is that he wants. The woman’s boundaries are seen as non-existent or negotiable. Your ‘no’ will be ignored. Why should the demand for that be in any way decriminalised?”
Blu - Twitter
Law Enforcement Training: The Missing Service for Victims of Human Trafficking
“How old are you?”
It was the middle of the night. I was standing on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey when a round and squinty-eyed policeman approached and posed this question to me.
“Eighteen,” I offered.
My feet were blistered. I tried to hide this discomfort as I shifted my weight onto the other foot. My hair fell in front of my face, and I knew parts of my scalp were visible. A double dose of hair dye had burned my dirty-blond hair and colored it an ugly yellow.
“Don’t lie to me,” the officer leered.
Thirty-six hours earlier I was on my way to Hollywood. I was going to be a singer or songwriter, an actor, or maybe even a model. A man I had met at the mall promised these occupations to me, but what he ultimately delivered was a dress and red high heels which were two sizes too big for me.
I insisted to this officer that I was eighteen years old. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, I was instructed to do this by the man whom I’d met at the mall and by his girlfriend, who had dyed my hair hours earlier. Second, I didn’t want to go back home, but neither did I want to be on that street corner. I wanted to be in Hollywood- auditioning for a television show or meeting my favorite rock stars or dancing in a fancy club. But, by that point, those dreams seemed stupid to me.
When the officer walked away from me, seemingly satisfied with my made-up story, I called out to him. “What if I was under eighteen?” I asked.
This was a serious question. I wanted to know- What were my options? Where could I go? Could I go somewhere other than home? Was there a place to which I might belong?
“That’s it,” hollered the officer, “I’ve had enough of you.”
He handcuffed me, shoved me into the back of the police car, and then assailed me with insults from the driver’s seat. I stared out the window. I was so angry- not so much with him, but with myself for taking the chance at trusting him. I should have known not to trust him, I thought, I should have known not to trust anyone.
I was fourteen years old.
Last week I wrote an article listing my ideas for victim services; however, I believe that any discussion of immediate needs for victims of sex trafficking must include the topic of law enforcement training. As this police officer insulted me with names and labels, my connection to the society I had left only thirty-six hours earlier grew more and more distant until a deep valley separated me from it. I, the teen prostitute, on one side; and the officer, the authority, the police of that society, sat on the other side studying me with disgust and scorn.
I won’t repeat here the words that this officer used against me. My point is not to paint a picture of blame or wrongdoing; my point is to underscore the need for law enforcement training. The initial exchange between a child or teen victim and an officer sets the tone for all subsequent interactions between the minor and other law enforcement, advocates, and social service providers. Without receiving compassion or empathy from the police, a child may come to view anyone involved in his or her case with contempt and distrust, thereby compromising the child’s openness towards after-care services.
I know this because I was there. I folded my arms against any help offered by all members of a society that immediately judged me without knowing my circumstances. By the time I met detectives who recognized me as a victim; I was angry, distant, and withdrawn. I flat out refused to cooperate, and the opportunity to quickly apprehend my perpetrators was lost. By the time I reluctantly agreed to work with police, the traffickers had fled. I reacted with equal reluctance and distrust towards the social workers and child psychiatrists who offered to help me.
Proper and thorough training for all levels of law enforcement is the best way to prevent any initial mistreatment to or misunderstanding with a child victim. I also believe this training must include the perspective of a survivor of child sex trafficking, as well as survivors of other forms of human trafficking. An officer must know that, even if a potential child or teen victim presents as uncooperative or belligerent, the officer must respond with discipline not discrimination.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s AMBER Alert Initiative has pioneered a survivor-informed training program for law enforcement and other partners which offers a multi-disciplinary team approach involving prosecutors and service providers. Their goal is to address not only the rescue of the victim but also his or her long-term wellbeing. Their focus is for law enforcement to play a major role in the rescue and stabilization of the victim with the understanding that support services must be in place. They urge prosecutors to work aggressively with law enforcement at targeting traffickers and organizations promoting or engaged in human trafficking, as well as addressing the demand side. For more information, please check the AMBER Alert Training Calendar or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
I urge you to invite AMBER Alert, or another survivor-informed organization, to your next law enforcement training event.”
Holly Austin Smith - Blog | Twitter | Washington Times column. An interview with Holly Austin Smith can be read here.
“This happened 20+ years ago but I have tried to recall as much detail as I can. It has been a painful day but I said I would share this for all those who may think sex might be an answer to debt. It is too big a price to pay.
He was 14 when I first met him, I noticed him straight away as I lay reading a book in the park. He was so different to the guys I went to school with. His punk hair and skintight jeans, he was loud and interesting. He came across and plonked himself down right next to me and just started to talk to me. We hit it off right away and we arranged to meet the next morning but I knew even then I could never take him home my parents were so strict; my dad was a police inspector.
We became friends and then boyfriend / girlfriend and always together outside of school. I met his mum but managed to avoid him meeting mine although they knew he existed. All my friends tried to warn me off him. But he was misunderstood and fun.
A year later his parents were getting divorced, not something my family would like as they were very religious and churchgoers. He began to change – smoking pot and hanging out with some older blokes who he thought were cool. He got kicked out of school and that was when he got into drugs in a big way. I never took anything – too afraid of what would happen.
By the time I was 17 and at college he was taking LSD, Ecstasy and speed that I knew about. He had become a mess but we stuck together. He managed to get a room near my college to see me every day. He never took me with him when he went to score he and his 2 dogs would meet me from college and walk around talking. Sometimes I would go to his pad and spend some time together. It was a grotty, shared place and I used to try to keep it clean and empty the ashtrays but it was foul and smelt really bad. The drugs were around and the ripped up cigarettes used for mixing and papers for rolling. He was looking rougher by now but I don’t think I ever noticed it he was just my T. I still saw the boy I knew not the addict he had become. His friend died that Christmas – took his own life and we went to the funeral. After he started to share things with me more like he was scared and in trouble and he didn’t want to end up like C**** taking his own life. I was scared for him. He told me how he got into debt and started selling drugs. I didn’t realise the constant stream of visitors were not just friends. I did notice the change and thought he was just settling in and making friends.
One day I arrived to find T with bruises and unsettled, he wanted me to give him some money, I gave him a few pounds I had with me but he got distressed and said it was not enough. I went to the bank and emptied my account and gave him about £200. He seemed better after and calmed down he told me he was in debt and had been selling hard drugs to pay it off but he had taken some of the drugs himself and the dealer now wanted paying. I was shocked and naïve I had lived a sheltered life. He owed a few hundred more so I went to my parents and said he needed to borrow it for a flat deposit and they said no, I went to the bank because I was 17 and stupid , they said no. The next time I went to see him he was frightened and scared and I had never seen him like that before. I knocked on the door and he didn’t answer for ages. He said he was hiding from men who were going to beat him up if he couldn’t pay and I had nothing left to give him. He got a call telling him to go to a flat in L********* and see the dealer. He asked me to go with him. I had never been before but agreed to go as I was so worried about him.
When we got to the flat, the dealer gave him a bag and told him to go and deliver it. He also gave him some stuff to sell and that was the first time I saw him take hard drugs. He calmed down instantly and his face changed. I felt sick. The dealer asked me if I wanted any and I said no I don’t do that. He said bright girl, you know you could clear all his debt with me in one night your small, pretty and young and I think you could do well. T went nuts and dragged me out the flat saying time to go, time to go. As we walked, I asked what did he mean and T said you stupid cow he wants you to have sex, don’t you get it. I didn’t get it. What- he would write off your debt if I sleep with him? Yes but you can’t. We argued, one night and no more debt and then get T some help to get away from the drugs and I could save him, I could change this it would all be alright….in my head I thought I can do this a one night stand with that man and no more debt for T.
So I went back and found the flat, I thought I could do this. The dealer laughed and said yes ok but not here be at the corner of ***** at 8pm and I will send a car for you, dress nice. I told my parents I was stopping at a friends and took the train arriving in the city. I went to the street and waited. The car picked me up. The guy was not in the car, the man driving said, “ut the hat on pull it over your face” I did as I was told. I did as I was told. After 5 minutes, the car stopped it pulled in under a building. The man got me out and walked me up some stairs I heard him knock on a door, it opened then it closed behind me. Then another door, it shut behind me. It went quiet. I felt alone. I took the wool hat off my head, the dealer was sat on a chair in the corner of a single room with just a divan bed and mattress, no duvet or sheets. It was a grim looking room with the window covered in a sheet of wood crudely nailed around the edges. Strip he said. I did nervously and suddenly feeling sick. I stood naked before him. Right, he said, the stuff is in the drawer. You won’t need to do anything just lay there, even a girl like you can manage that. He walked across and grabbed my face with one hand squeezing it til my cheeks hurt and the other hand he grabbed my breast. They will already have paid so no need to take any cash like your scumbag boyfriend. Do it well or we will sort his debt with him and you behave or you won’t see him again. I asked what he meant by they …I thought I was going to sleep with you. He laughed, “you thick bitch you’re going to have the experience of your life and relax, you might even enjoy it. Remember this is your fault you wanted to help the loser. You two owe me a lot of money so pay up or get started I have people waiting”.
He left the room as the first man walked in. He calmly opened a condom from a pile on a shelf and put it on, then pushed me on to the bed and had sex with me. I thought it will be done in a minute and then it will be over. But after him within a second of him walking out another walked in and he looked at me “very nice H said you were fresh meat”. He had sex with me. Then before he was finished another man walked in I thought he would stop and moved to get up but he pushed me down and the other man pressed down on my shoulders holding me on the bed. He stood and watched then had his turn.
I can remember crying but not moving like I had lost the ability to move. My thoughts were going mad. I kept thinking of my parents and T and if I was going to see them again. There must have been about 30 throughout the night. Not all used a condom. They just seemed to come through the door as the last one left. Some spoke others just got on with it. Some touched my body while others were just functional. Sometimes someone just came in and stood watching. A few times men came in together. I must have passed out at some stage. I came around to someone washing me, a man, he washed me then told me to stand up. I tried, my legs went, I felt bruised, there were bruises on my legs I hurt all over and so tired. He had a bottle of something and squirted it inside me and then made me brush my teeth. He bagged up my clothes and threw a dress in a bag as if it was new and told me to put it on.
He took me out of the room to the lounge the dealer was sat with some others smoking. I didn’t recognise any of them. The table in front of them was covered in cans and bottles, full ashtrays and a tall pipe. He said “ah my girl oh sorry T’s girl”. Well you did good but fresh meat normally does. So what now, he lounged in the chair as if nothing had happened. “Is she clean?” he asked the man behind me. “Yes, done her,” he replied. “Good drop her off then sort the flat. I’ll see you at mine later”. Then he grabbed my face again and said, “all done unless you fancy a new career”. He laughed at his own joke.
I stood quiet and afraid. I was unsure what was going to happen next. I found my voice and said my dad would be looking for me soon I needed to leave …he is a police officer. The room went quiet then they all started to laugh, “what did you say, police officer. Oooo like we are so scared. No one will believe you if you tell as none of us ever saw you before and we know where to find T and we can tell them all about his drug dealing. … you can’t tell or he might just be in trouble after all you agreed to this, you did it to yourself.”
They convinced me I was not to talk and covered my head in a scarf and took me downstairs. They drove about for a bit this time with one man sat in the back with me. He kept sliding his hand under my top. The other guy said to him to leave it out “she has had enough”. I asked where they were taking me and the guy driving said, “look love, we all owe him but you’re safe, you’re one of the lucky ones, he might have kept you if he hadn’t been worried about your ol’ man’s job cos his face was a picture. We are going to drop you at ***** park, it will be quiet there this time of day, you must wait until you hear us drive off then you can go, but you really can’t tell anyone – he will kill your bloke if you do”.
They dumped me out of the car. I waited. I took the scarf off, sat by a load of bins near the toilets. I sat for ages, sore bruised and thinking I need to get home….I can’t go home like this….I finally made a painful walk to the train station. I can remember thinking, wow it is daylight but I had no idea what the time was, we didn’t have mobiles back then. I felt people watching me I kept thinking do they know what I have done…do I look that bad…does everyone know… and if it was a man I kept thinking, were you one of them…something I was going to relive when I next walked through that same city centre 23 years later. I spent 1 hour there and had to leave as it still scared me even now.
I went round to T‘s. I didn’t really want to see him but I also didn’t know where else to go. But he had gone, left, moved, his house mates didn’t know where just that he had left and taken his few belongings with him. I made my way home. It took weeks before I could uncover my arms in front of anyone and panic every time my parents spoke to me. They thought the bad mood and upset was because I had split from T.
It was a long time before I could face another man. I put on weight and cut my hair really short. If someone looked at me, I ran a mile. I then bumped into T some 5 years later. I forgave him instantly, relieved I could talk to someone and we had a relationship, somehow being with him was ok as he already knew what I had done, I thought this time he was clean and he had waited for me but I had a rude awakening when a few months later, I told him I was pregnant and he announced he was still using and so was his partner and they had 3 kids all in care…I walked away with my eyes wide open, had my child and was over him. He took his own life shortly after in 1995. His sister traced our child in 2011 and I had to explain why I had never allowed contact it caused so much hurt.
Drugs and prostitution are so joined and equally destructive. I think I was very lucky. If the dealer had decided to keep me, I would have been lost and I could have done nothing to stop it. I was 17. I was at college, white, from middle class church going parents and I had no idea what was really happening until it was too late. I now work and have a husband and 3 great kids. I still have panic attacks and hate male environments or groups of men in pubs, loud laughter, small rooms and I can’t have a door shut if I am in the room.”
Breaking My Silence
“It has taken me over 40 years to break my silence; I finally feel strong enough to be able to share my story, and reach out to others.
I was abused by family members beginning at the age of nine. After the abuse, I tried to tell my mother but she did not want to believe me. There was no help, validation or therapy for the effects of the abuse. I eventually stopped even trying to tell my mother.
I felt like nothing I did mattered, I didn’t want to go to school or talk to my friends. And because I received no validation or therapy for the abuse I suffered, my self-esteem plummeted and I became a walking target for traffickers and predators. I believe it is so important to first validate a child’s abuse, and second get them the therapy and help they need.
I decided to run away from home to escape the abuse, and I continued to run away from home dozens and dozens of times between the ages of 12 and 14. Sometimes the police would find me and bring me home, or they took me to detention centers and reform schools and hospitals. I was treated as a juvenile delinquent, and a child who was uncontrollable, never a young girl who needed assistance or help.
Not once was the abuse I had suffered in my home ever addressed. Because I never received any treatment, it was so easy for predators, pimps and traffickers, who have uncanny radar to seek out damaged children, to force into trafficking.
One time after I ran away, a couple found me hungry, cold and in need of shelter on the streets of Washington, D.C. They picked me up and groomed me for prostitution. I was 14.
After months of being trafficked by them in Washington D.C., they sold me to another trafficker who whisked me away to New York.
I stayed with the trafficker who bought me in D.C. over eight years, selling my body for him on the streets of New York City. I tried to leave him a few times, once even making my way all the way back to Virginia, but I never succeeded. He always came after me and brought me back to New York. I was beaten, raped, robbed, jailed and even taken to Rikers Island Prison. I was arrested dozens of times, I had been programmed to tell the police that I was eighteen or twenty one years old and to never give them my real name. The police never asked me my real name or my real age. I believe that training for police and law enforcement is so very important because they are the ones that are out there in the street. They are the ones who have the most contact with the runaways and young people who are being trafficked on the streets of our country, and they could do so much good if they knew what to look for and could identify, track and give young trafficking victims the help they need instead of arresting them.
In the beginning my naivety and lack of self-esteem from the abuse I had suffered made it easy for me to believe he was my protector, and I believed he loved me as hard as that is to understand. I learned after leaving ‘the life’ to understand the terms trauma bonding and Stockholm Syndrome. And what happens when a young person who has been abused is manipulated, beaten and lied to by a predator.
Later when I began to see what he really was, a predator and pimp, he controlled me with severe beatings and death threats. He beat me with coat hangers, tried to throw me out of his car, and threw me down several flights of stairs.
I was terrified of what he might do to me and saw no escape.
During the time I spent on the streets being trafficked I went to jail numerous times, I was raped, and robbed and at deaths door more times than I can count, although I was the victim, I had a criminal record. The pimp who was trafficking me was never arrested. The police would come through the streets and round up dozens of women and girls, never the pimps and traffickers, and take us all down to the station. The man that trafficked me was never arrested for trafficking, though he did die in prison in 1995, where he was incarcerated for drug charges.
I am in the process of vacating the criminal record I got while I was trafficked, because I was in New York. New York is one of seven states which allow survivors of trafficking to vacate criminal convictions. The other states are, Hawaii, Illinois, Vermont, Washington State, Maryland and Nevada.
Between the ages of fourteen through seventeen, I spiralled downward into drug addiction and was no longer a commodity to my trafficker who eventually released me. I was on my own in New York and addicted to heroin. At age twenty I met a drug counsellor at a clinic who reunited me with my family in nearby Philadelphia, Pa., where my older sister had been living for several years. The average age of entry into the world of trafficking is twelve-fourteen years of age.
After I was reunited with family members at Christmas time, in 1980 I never went back to New York. I was able to get off of drugs and go back to school. Because I ran away from home at such a young age I never finished the 6th grade, so I had to get my G.E.D. After I got my high school diploma I went on to college and got a degree in early childhood development. I was married and found out I was infertile because of all the abuse and trauma my young body had been through. After visiting an infertility specialist I was able to conceive and had a beautiful baby girl who is now 23 years old.
Through all the years of recovery I never told anyone about my past. I kept it all inside, never letting the horror and shame of those years out. No one knew what I had been through-not my husband, or my daughter. I carried my trauma with me.
Stress and keeping things inside can kill you, if you are reading this and you have been or are being trafficked please tell someone you trust, if you can.
All of the horror and trauma of my past came rushing back to me the night my daughter ran away from home when she was 15 years old. As I thought of what could happen to her on the streets if I did not find her, I searched and was able to find her several hours later at a friend’s house. I told her about what I had been through when I was her age not long after bringing her home. My daughter is grown now and I have a grandson who just turned 6 years old.
Lately I have felt the contentment and strength of finally getting to know who I am. I am a strong woman who does not need to be ashamed of my past. I am a survivor who is alive today because of my strengths and vulnerabilities. I think my inner soul remained untouched despite what I went through for so many years. I also believe I am alive today because someone watched over me during all those nights I was out on the streets. Call it what you will-I call it God.
I have had different reactions since I began speaking out and telling my story. Some have told me I am brave and that telling my story was a selfless act and helps people, while others have asked why I would break my silence after so many years. I believe I am alive today so I can tell my story of survival and overcoming adversity to help inspire other people who are struggling with some of the same things I did. If I can help even one of those people, then I did what I was meant to do.
I have spoken in different venues during the last six or seven months. I have shared my story and also how people can make a difference. I believe that each survivor of human trafficking has a powerful voice and can make a difference, whether they chose to tell their story or not, they can still make a difference by talking with legislators and non-profits and government agencies who are working towards ending trafficking, just as anyone else can who wants to make a difference.”
Barbara Amaya - Website | Twitter | Washington Times column. An interview with Barbara Amaya can be read here.
Do I Have Prostitute Written on My Forehead?
“After facilitating the first session of a new domestic sex trafficking support group, I was asked this question by one of the young members, 21 years of age. “Do I have prostitute written on my forehead? Why do people come up to me and offer me money for sex? I’m not dressed slutty! I don’t get it!” Truthfully, I was not sure how to answer this. I have felt this and the frustration it brings with it before, when I was younger and first getting back on my feet and out of the lifestyle.
I would get pissed at everyone and blame anyone and everyone but, looking back, I think I had put MYSELF in those situations without being able to recognize it. Example, when I got out of the lifestyle, I went directly into an abusive relationship. I was trying so hard to go the straight and narrow, but still managed to get into ANOTHER bad situation and I could not understand how or why. I think it’s because my mind-state had yet to change.
I can see that now, but when I was in it, I was completely blind to it. It took me about a year and a half to be on my own, without a boyfriend, to discover what I REALLY wanted! I don’t have people offering me money for sex but I have felt like people could somehow see what I had done and were able to almost sniff it out. My answer for now is it is the way you carry yourself! If you present yourself as a queen, you will be a queen. If you present yourself as an addict, you will be an addict, etc. When I stopped looking for it, it stopped looking for me!!! Make sense?”
Danielle Douglas - Blog | Twitter | Documentary ‘Tricked’
Residues of the Past
“I had to go into town yesterday and, being as it was such a lovely day, I didn’t want to take the car. I got off the dart at Connelly and walked though the station with the rest of the crowd until I was out in the Aungier Street sunshine. Then I walked around by Bus Aras and up to the junction where Gardiner Street meets the back of the Custom House. I was standing there alongside several other people, all of us waiting to cross the road, when I glanced over my shoulder at the buildings behind me. That’s when it arrived – the memory I’d really rather not have.
When I was fifteen and only a short time on the game, I was taken back to a hotel room in one of those buildings and used sexually by an Asian man. I remember how insistent he was that he would not use a condom, and how insistent he was about everything else. I remember the bullying nature of the encounter, how his hands seemed to be everywhere at the same time and how he continually shoved his fingers into my vagina and anus although I repeatedly asked him to stop. He was a thirty-something man. I was less than half his age.
I was so innocent and so unused to what I was doing that I’d forgotten to ask him for the money first, and of course, after he came he maintained he hadn’t got it. He told me to wait for him in MacDonalds on Grafton Street at two o’clock the next day, where he would pay me.
So there are two memories here, meshed into one, and for me somehow the second is more pitiable than the first. It is the image of my fifteen-year-old self waiting in MacDonalds for a man to show up so that I could buy myself a burger meal. Needless to say, I never got to eat a burger meal that day.
Every time I have turned that corner, I have looked up at those buildings, but it was only yesterday that I was able to face the full reality of what caused me to turn and look. Up to now I had always snapped my neck away, pushed away the memory, refused to be submerged beneath the pain and the shame of being used like that, being made into nothing like that; and I had certainly not allowed my mind to wander back to sitting in MacDonalds on Grafton Street, feeling like the world’s emptiest, loneliest fool.
I was able to do that yesterday. I was able to let my mind go there; to remember being a hungry young girl who felt like a fool. I think I could do that because I know now that I was not a fool. I was just a young naive homeless teenager, with nobody to love her, and who it had never dawned on to love herself.
There are residues of the past. In a city as small as Dublin, they are everywhere you go. Yesterday I let the past settle into me in a way I’ve never done before. Maybe it’s because now I know the day would come when that girl would get a book deal, and have something to say about the past.”
Rachel Moran - Blog | Twitter. An interview with Rachel Moran can be read here.
The Magic Number 18
“I was trafficked at sixteen. When I turned eighteen, it was NOT a magic number. No one mailed me a bunch of information about choices I had now that I was of age. If you asked me if I liked it at sixteen, I would have said yes, in fear of my life being snubbed out by my pimp or his counterparts.
I didn’t enter that world willingly. I was told I was going to a party by a man who said I was beautiful and wanted to be my boyfriend. When I did arrive to a new state, I did not know a soul. I was beaten all the way there. When we were riding, he gave me a drink and I woke up in the dark at a truck stop. I will never forget his words to me. He said, “Baby, do you know what I am?”
I said, “No.”
He said, “I’m a pimp, and we don’t have enough gas to get to the party. I have this guy in the truck right here and you need to ‘trick him’. Just get in his truck and make him happy.”
I laughed at him and said, “No way, you are tripping. I don’t do that.”
He pulled out a gun and said, “I didn’t ask you, bitch. Get your ass in that truck. I don’t have time for this shit.” He jumped out pulled me out of the car and told me if I screwed this up, he was going to kill me.
I got in the truck. That is the night my life changed forever. I could go on and speak of the horrors of that night, but I won’t. I share this with you because I need you to understand how this happens and what it feels like to be stripped of anything that resembles your ‘other life’.
I learned to comply quickly. I tried to have the police help me, and they did, or so I thought until they had me on a bus to go back to my home state. You see, I got off the bus to use the bathroom and the pimp was there. He dragged me back to his car and beat me so bad I almost died. Now, in my worldview, the police are part of this whole ‘new life’. I surrendered and did as I was told.
Part of getting me ready to deal with people out there, my pimp groomed me to believe if I ever told anyone including the police that I was a minor, they would lock me up and never let me go. They would keep me until I turned eighteen. I didn’t want to go back to the abuse I left. I didn’t want to get locked up forever. My pimp told me to say I was twenty-one and he would come and get me. He said that is why he had to take anything that identified me as me. If I had my belongings they would know I was a minor and I would be trapped. He instilled fear in me to acknowledge my identity to anyone. I grew up so sheltered. I knew nothing about jail, welfare or how our world worked. I did remember how the police and social services came to my school and took one of my friends and I never saw her again. At that time, I thought it was just the police, so I believed him. I lived in constant fear that someone would find out my real age. I rehearsed my new name, birthdate, and address over and over again.
I need you to understand that victims don’t tell you the truth about their age. This is exactly how we miss these young people. Unfortunately, after they turn eighteen in their real identity, our society feels like they are no longer eligible for help – they no longer have been hurt. All of a sudden, people assume they have made a career choice and their situation changes from child trafficking victim to ‘prostitute’. We all know prostitutes choose to do this, right? I cannot wrap my head around this thinking.
I assure you, I didn’t get a birthday party when I turned eighteen. In fact, I got a broken finger because I felt bad that my pimp didn’t recognize my special day. I was an adult now. I got no card, no present, no cake, no gift, no day off. It was a regular day with a higher quota than usual because he had an attitude due to me thinking I would be treated different on this day. He beat me and broke my finger, and sent me to ‘work’ broken finger and all.
There was no mail from the ‘options academy’ listing all of the choices I had now that I was of age. The police didn’t pull me over and say, “Hey Julie, you know you have options now. You don’t have to do this anymore; no one can lock you up for not being the right age anymore.”
It is interesting to me how people think eighteen is this magic number that just changes your whole life. Maybe in the outside world it does, but in the culture of prostitution/sex trafficking, eighteen is just another number. When I turned eighteen, I was already twenty-three anyway according to the police.
So as we count victims and as we decide who is entitled to receive help, please don’t forget what I shared with you. Many of those eighteen, nineteen, twenty and twenty-one year old ‘prostitutes’ are really fourteen, fifteen and sixteen. They have just been groomed and beaten into compliance to say they are eighteen. I know this is still happening today. Rachel Lloyd of GEMS goes into correctional facilities to do groups. She stated how surprised she was that there were so many juveniles in the adult jail.
“I am six months and twenty-five days out of a life of sexual torture, drugs and alcohol abuse. I wish I could use lighter friendlier words but I’m still suffering. I was relatively unstable in childhood and well, it’s only gone downhill from there.
I have this thorn in my side. It seems I like humiliation. He said he doesn’t like sob stories. He doesn’t want to hear it. He thinks I made it up because I don’t have any court papers or criminal record to back my story up. I’m sure if I were to run for public office, pictures and videos would surface. Let him know I’m not lying. I am begging him to love me. Pleading with him to take my side. He tells me to shut up.
I wish I could be the kind of woman he wants but I can’t. The sex industry really hurt me. It pains me to admit I am in pain. Between the self-inflicted wounds, the extreme lack of self-care and tremendous weight gain, I’m not even pretty anymore. Ask the for fleabites on my face!
I have all this baggage and I’m not even twenty-five. My new therapist tries to convince me that this isn’t my fault and I try to school my expression. I nod when she asks if I understand. I wonder if she knows I really don’t believe her.
Seventeen is the age of consent in NYC. How could it not be my fault! I deserved it!
See I have this thorn in my side that says I don’t deserve love, but instead punishment for my failures. My therapist says my childhood left me vulnerable for sexual exploitation.
I thank God for psych meds. They’ve been holding me down on the nightmare front when I do sleep. But when I lay down at night I think I’m dirty, sullied, bad, need to be punished… Need to be whipped.
NYC is supposed to be the spot for lofts, penthouses, diamonds, plastic surgery the stuff dreams are made of, and I made it a nightmare. I want you to understand that I volunteered. I posted craigslist ads where men ordered me up like a dominos pizza. I showed up fresh from the subway ride looking hot to trot. I am not denying that the sex industry carved me up like a thanksgiving turkey, but I wasn’t the average victim.
I craved the beatings. BDSM was my specialty and I didn’t use safewords. I didn’t know if I deserved one. I soon learned they were necessary. It was necessary if you like breathing or didn’t want to be permanently maimed.
Being left unconscious, beaten, bound, blindfolded and locked in a hotel closet to be discovered by hotel staff is quite an experience, but in retrospect wasn’t too bad. That time a hotel manager told me to run if I didn’t want to wake up in China and I got dressed in the elevator. Wasn’t pleasant, but again not so bad.
Although I do wonder if my drug-addled mind understood the urgency of the situation because I took the elevator not the stairs. When I look back, there were so many really bad experiences I couldn’t even decide who to give the award to for most life endangering prick. And that somehow makes me feel like a little tiny bit of a victim, but let’s not lose it ok? Victim doesn’t look good on me.
Every morning when I rise, I take it on. I place shame, guilt and fear on my person like it’s my armor. I am damaged. I don’t know where to go, what to do to crawl out of the hellhole in between my ears. Somebody pushed pause on my life and the play button is broken. I am doomed to stay in limbo sleeping on people’s couches and in basements forever feeling unworthy dirty and unlovable.”
aintaboutthatlife - Twitter