‘In every possible way, it felt like rape’

This is a new selection of #MeToo stories we’ve received through our Share Your Story page, where women can enter their experiences of the sex trade anonymously. We do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed, but each story is important, moving and powerful, and reveals yet again the awful truth about prostitution – that it has no place in a society that aspires to equality between women and men, and fundamental human rights for all.

“No matter what anyone says, there are no happy Hookers! Prostitution is like letting yourself get raped again and again.” – Polish Princess

Anonymous

Thank you so much for providing the material on your website. It helps me to realise what just happened to me. I am a sex trade survivor from Victoria, Australia [where the sex trade is legalised].

I was brainwashed into thinking ‘sex work’ is a legitimate job that could help me escape the poverty of my childhood and help me reclaim some of the power taken from me during sexual assaults. I was brainwashed by the local prostitution organisation, when I reached out for help, into believing prostitution was ‘empowering’ me.

I am 23 now and I have managed to turn my back on the industry for good.

I am disturbed by the culture here and wish the Nordic Model could be introduced to change the culture and stop women like myself from being brainwashed.

Polish Princess

Typical neglected child story.

When I was 21 I met my Devil online.

A Danish man, age 33.

He was nice charming and fun.

I had no place to live and he was in between apartments.

We started dating and moved in together in a small town far away from everything I knew.

I was seeking adventures and fun from the already ‘long’ sad life I had lived and that he could offer.

He introduced me to party drugs and swinger clubs and one day he shared a ‘fantasy’ to have sex for money with me.

He was all I had and I wanted to make him happy, so somehow he got me convinced, even though my first answer was no.

I felt dirty and used after the threesome experience for money, but the money I enjoyed with him.

When the money was gone he wanted to continue. And some somehow he got his way.

I was and am a strong and independent person, so how it got that far and how I let him prostitute me for about a year I still really can’t understand.

Even more broken and seeing he wasn’t as nice as I thought, I got away.

I ended up in a youth homeless shelter and did not know how to move on from there.

I started to manage the only way I knew in life and started to prostitute myself. Just till I find a job and a place to live.

But too broken to make it happen even though a lot of breaks and trying jobs and going back to school I still fell back on sugar dating.

I have done this on and off till I was 26.

I’m 28 now, have depth and live on welfare. I have PTSD and take medicine to just manage to live an everyday life.

I am in treatment, but still have a long way to go and some days I’m not sure if I will make it in life.

Selling myself was like selling my soul to the Devil.

It is the biggest mistake of my life.

And I’m still learning how to live with it now.

No matter what anyone says, there are no happy Hookers!

Prostitution is like letting yourself get raped again and again. And the nasty rapist is somehow you.

Emily

My story begins when I was 19 years old. It was 2002 and I had recently graduated from high school and was living with my older, emotionally abusive boyfriend. I was working as an administrative assistant for a lawyer and in many ways, I was very responsible for my age. Every December I have flashbacks of the first time I met one of my traffickers. It was Christmas time and my best friend and I had gone to his place, I think to buy some marijuana from him for the first time. I recall him sitting in an oversized easy chair with a Christmas tree beside him, all lit up with lights.

My traffickers were an older couple, W and S. They were both always very friendly to me, especially S, who would always ask – with what I know now was feigned concern – how I was doing. At one point I was honest with her about wanting to leave my current living situation, and she warmly and graciously invited me to come live in their apartment. Sure, I would have to sleep on the sofa, but I would be free. So I packed up my stuff and left my boyfriend.

As I got to know S over time, I found out she did phone sex for a living. This was a shock for me – I had never known anyone who did anything in the sex industry. She started telling me about a client she had – he was obsessed with her. She said that she would describe herself as someone else, someone who sounded a lot like I looked. S started pressuring me to meet this john in Seattle. She kept telling me that all I would have to do was say Hi to him and he would give me several hundred dollars. All I had to do was go to Seattle and pretend to be this woman from her phone sex calls with him, and just say hello to him in person. No one had ever told me that someone would want to sell me for sex. It was 2002 and no one was talking about sex-trafficking.

Finally, after many weeks of pressuring me, I gave in and said I would go meet him briefly, but that was it. W was going to drive me to Seattle. When we got there, I found out that no, the john was not willing to meet. It was at that point that my life changed forever.

W dropped me off at a house in South Seattle, at what I now know was an escort service. Young girls filled every inch of that large house, I had never seen so many milling around like that. They were all different ethnicities, and many looked very, very young to me. The phone would ring often, and one would leave in a limousine. Then it was my turn.

I don’t remember much except getting out of the limo in front of this beautiful waterfront house in West Seattle. My next flashback is of me standing in this man’s basement, in a bathroom. He is high as a kite and shouting at me in Spanish while he is holding his limp dick out in front of me. Drugs and pornography surrounded us in his beautiful bathroom.

Meanwhile, I just stood there, frozen. I was still wearing my clothes and was praying that I wouldn’t have to do anything. In my mind, I thought, “Tonight, is the night I’m going to die. No one will ever see me again.” But suddenly he hands me money, several hundred dollars and shouts at me in Spanish to leave. I breathed out a sigh of relief. I didn’t have to get undressed. I didn’t have to touch him or worse. I’m still alive! I was hopeful that I would live through this nightmare after all. Through it all, I felt like I had just gone into combat, that I had been thrown in a war zone and I had a heightened awareness that my life was at stake.

W came by the house to pick me up and he immediately asked about the money. I just handed it to him. I had given up at this point. I was so traumatized from what I had just gone through that I wouldn’t have been able to fight back emotionally or mentally. He knew that too. I had been broken by that experience.

That was just the first of many nights and days where I was ‘turned out’ by my traffickers. The next time W transported me to Seattle he raped me and forced hard drugs on me. One of the lies he had groomed me with was that I wouldn’t have to have sex with anyone. He told me that one over and over again. Working in tandem with an escort agency in Seattle, men came through my hotel room, on average 6 different men per day, sometimes more. And yes, they definitely expected sex – often twice in one hour. The first few men I saw, I just took the money and ran, because I was terrified of having sex with them. I had only ever been with just a few guys. Also, that lie that I wouldn’t actually have to do anything with them was still in my head. Then the next lie he told me, was that since I had already had sex, why not just get paid for it. Eventually I had to give in, and I remember the first time. In every possible way, it felt like rape.

Soon thereafter, I quit my job as an administrative assistant and W would drive me to Seattle for longer stretches of time. He would inevitably take my car for days at a time and show up periodically to take my money as well. He got me hooked on heavy drugs and I would use those to stay up and work late. Even though I hated the drugs, I hated being present even more, and the drugs helped me to disassociate. I was terrified of being alone in the hotel rooms. One of my few comforts during that time was the friendship I formed with another young woman who was also being trafficked through the same escort agency. We often worked together and having her to talk to, that saved my sanity in some ways. Because other than that, I really was completely alone.

There was one night that I realized I wasn’t even viewed as human anymore. W decided to take me to downtown Seattle at 2 am and he walked me around one of the roughest neighbourhoods in Seattle while I was wearing practically nothing. I realized I was just a piece of property. All I needed was a leash and the very statement he was making would be complete. I wasn’t human anymore, I was like some kind of animal and my life was not my own. Meanwhile, I was so ashamed I just wanted to die.

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t fight back more, even though in a million different ways I had told them no, but they were brilliant manipulators and had caught me in a web of lies, deceit and coercion. Sometimes I wonder why I hadn’t put forth stronger boundaries with this couple, why was I so needy for them to like and maybe even love me.

I realize now that I was extremely vulnerable for a number of reasons. First, I was just desperately trying to recreate a loving family environment, something I had lacked in my childhood. Even though I was a young woman, childhood trauma and abandonment had stunted me in many ways for I longed to be ‘rescued.’ I had been abandoned by both parents when I was young, for several years, by a mother who became an alcoholic and a father who was never really there to begin with. Child Protection Services had investigated my childhood home, but thanks to several well-crafted lies, we had avoided social services and had remained in our home. To me, S and W represented what the wounded child inside of me so desperately wanted: a potential family. Here was an older couple that wanted me to live with them, and made me feel cared about, when I felt like an orphan in the storm in my life. Also, I had been molested when I was an infant by a family member, so in a way my sexuality had already been hijacked on a level I was maybe unaware of.

After almost a year of this hell, W was arrested and put in a maximum-security prison on prior drug charges. He was arrested in my car, driving high on drugs and in possession of them. S immediately put my belongings in boxes and they conveniently returned to the ex-boyfriend she had pretended to ‘rescue’ me from almost a year prior. I didn’t know what to do then. I was so ashamed I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone.

Also, I had just been delivered a very strong and unrelenting message that all I was good for was sex. So, I simply returned to the escort agencies, because in my mind and heart, that was all I could see I was good for. That’s all my traffickers saw in me, that’s all the buyers saw in me, that’s all the escort agency owners saw in me. I felt so completely ashamed, trapped and hopeless. I ended up working in the sex industry for four more years after that, until I was 24 years old. I never had another pimp, even though I was certainly approached by them.

During that time, I was completely addicted to pain pills and cocaine – I couldn’t work when I was sober. I took the equivalent of what a person dying of cancer takes first thing in the morning along with a Venti coffee and ended my night smoking a ton of pot to put me right to sleep.

At 24 years old, I was desperate to get out of the commercial sex industry. I decided to get off drugs and quit the pills cold turkey which was awful, but I somehow miraculously managed it. However, even more awful was trying to see buyers when I was sober. I just couldn’t do it. I called the escort agency owner I worked with and told her that I couldn’t do this work anymore and she automatically assumed that I had been arrested, I suppose because she couldn’t imagine why I would want to leave.

The buyers were often pretty rough with me and there were even some that I knew wanted to see me dead. I could feel their hatred of me, even though they wanted to have sex with me. That was always very scary.

At that time, I decided to reconcile with my mom, whose home I had run away from when I was 17 and still in high school. Over the next year, as I put back together the shattered pieces of my life, I lived with both my mom and my sister. My family was incredibly supportive of me at that time and didn’t really ask too many questions. I went back to community college and finished my AA degree and found a straight job, the first one I had had in many years. I then went away to university and completed a Bachelor of Science degree.

During my time in the commercial sex industry, I lied prolifically to my family to cover up what had happened and the work I was doing. It wasn’t until 11 years after I had left the life that I told them what had happened to me. I didn’t feel like I could tell them the truth of what I had experienced until I had proven that my life was somewhat successful, primarily because I blamed myself still. When I told them, not that long ago, I was married with two kids, very stable and felt like I had proven my ability to overcome. I was only met with kindness and grace on their part, but I noticed that it left them all feeling quite guilty, like they should have seen or noticed what was happening and helped me more.

Ultimately, it took a loving and accepting community of survivors of trafficking to help me resolve my issues with shame and to speak openly of my experiences. Today it is easy for me to share what happened to me. As one of my mentors wisely pointed out, this shame wasn’t even mine to carry anyway. Today I am grateful for the many services that are available to CSE survivors. When I left the commercial sex industry in 2007, there weren’t that many services for survivors. I know now I had PTSD as a result of complex trauma due to my experiences as both a trafficking and prostitution victim. I know now I was a victim, but I haven’t carried around a victim-mentality with me. Instead of feeling ashamed like I used to, I now see myself as an overcomer, and someone who is incredibly strong and resilient.

Share your story

If you’ve been in the sex trade, or have been affected by it in other less direct ways, and would like to share your story anonymously, we’d love to hear from you.

2 thoughts on “‘In every possible way, it felt like rape’

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