These powerful and moving pieces were sent to us through our Share Your Story page, which provides a space for women to tell of their experiences of the sex trade in their own words. We do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed.
Exiting sex work is easier said than done. After years of working in brothels I had very little to put on a CV and my experience of working life outside sex work was minimal and outdated.
After struggling for a couple of years to even get an interview, I managed to find a job in a bar. I was terrified my past would come back to haunt me and eventually it did when a customer found out my guilty secret. People who had once been friendly towards me became cool and distant. I felt humiliated and ashamed. I went home one day and couldn’t face going back.
After months struggling to get by on benefits, I found a job as a receptionist at a brothel I used to work at. The environment was often degrading and traumatic but it somehow felt a lot less intimidating than normal life.
I guess I never realised just what I was signing up for on my first shift in a brothel. It’s only years later when the sacrifices start to outweigh any financial benefits. Unfortunately, the way out isn’t quite so easy as the way in and the longer you stay on the fringes of society, the harder it becomes to bridge those gaps.
I grew up on a farm in Ontario. The abuse was almost daily, every conceivable type of abuse. By the time I was 11 years old I tried to end my life but failed. At 16 when I was legally able, I left my home and headed to Toronto. Not knowing a soul, I slept with men for food and a bed. Any option was better than home.
It was a dog-eat-dog world. You had to become street smart very quickly or become a victim. Seeing as now I am 65 and retired, you can well imagine there were no shelters or supports. It was very scary.
Fast forward, I finally found the strength to escape. I managed to go to college. I worked for 23 years in domestic violence services, working with, understanding, and empathizing with drug addict, mentally ill and street involved women.
On one occasion I had a young woman turn to me and say “Oh Ruby, I just don’t want to do this anymore.” So you see, we are valuable. Women can change and with continued support they will. They just need caring non-judgmental, support.
I believe prostitution should be legalized with all the power in the hands of women. Making their own choices, with the resources available to get out of the business of they choose. With a doctor available, counselling if they choose but I don’t think it is a very popular concept.
I was abused in every possible way a child can experience. But the most painful feeling is that the only man that was supposed to protect me sexually abused me from as early as I can remember until my older sister at 16 told our mother. I was never able to tell my mother. I am ashamed and scared since she never let us talk about the past.
All the above abuse led me to think that the only way no one would harm me was to go to school and be a better person. Therefore, I decided to study and work at the same time. When I graduated from high school. I enrolled to get my bachelor’s degree. One day while I was walking to school a car occupied by four men stopped.
One of them asked me to get into the car. I refused to follow their orders therefore, he got a gun put in my head. I was sexually abused by them. They kept me for several months. Then they decided to asked my mother for a ransom. My mother jumped through hoops to get me out of there alive.
All I remember I lost any inch of trust in humanity. I was afraid to see any human being. I locked myself in my room. I remember my mother brought a relative that was a therapist. The next thing my mother put me on an airplane to USA (CA), paid me a room for a month.
More than 20 years have passed since my kidnapping. I still feel trapped in my room. Always making sure everything is locked. I still feel that little girl trapped inside me.
I was so vulnerable that at age 20 I was raped by my boyfriend. He entered through the window while I was sleeping. The lady that used to rent me the room went out of town. Then my mother forced me to marry that guy. I am a magnet for attracting the bad guys.
I just keep working, working out, eating healthy. Through the years for some reason, I thought the sadness, the big void and darkness will go away. Nothing ever worked.
In 2017, I tried to end this pain by checking out for good. However, I only ended up in a coma. In 2019 I tried it again but ended up in mental hospital for the second time. I have been diagnosed with Chronic PTSD. No matter what I have done to get away from my past nothing seems to be working.
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, please see our Share Your Story page.