I am not for SALE, but MY BODY IS. pt2: Survivor Stories

[…] In my next article following this one, I will put excerpts of survivors stories and through their words, create awareness on the issue of sexual exploitation, the various circumstances that lead them into such a dark world and highlight the fact that  sexual exploitation is real and it exists. Their full stories are found in the “Equality Now”¹ website and most of them have bitter sweet endings, but for the purpose of this article I will highlight mainly the brutal reality they faced before making it out. (continuation from the article: I am not for sale, but my body is) 

Human-Trafficking-Survivor-Story            credit: Morgan Wheaton Potography

UK – Rebecca: “I was abused by a family member from the age of six. I told my mother but she didn’t care. She was just concerned about me not getting pregnant. There was a club in our town where if you were a girl and under 16, the bouncers would let you in for free at the end of the night.[…] On that first night some men took me to a flat and gang raped me for 6 hours. There was a queue of men outside the door; one would finish and another would come in. Now, when I look back, it feels like it was a test to see if I would be a good prostitute. I don’t know how I made it out alive. […] loads of men who were abusive to me were white and English, but there were also men from other nationalities and countries. It was the time of the anti-apartheid movement. Outwardly they portrayed themselves as so good. Some would actually talk to me about human rights while they were doing horrible things to me! […] As an escort most of the guys who bought me were very rich – many were training to become leaders in their own countries. Some of them are now in positions of power. People disconnect prostitution from other rights abuses. It makes me cynical about governments and those that run them. […]”

Canada – Trisha:  “Those years are a haze, they are a blur. I have to say a normal day was just something I was merely trying to survive. Every day was “unnormal” in what I was doing, but when you are a part of that lifestyle it is what everyone is doing so it starts to become “normal.” The violence becomes normal, the derogatory names men call you become normal, the feelings of self loathing and such become normal…which is why I guess the drinking, drugs and dysfunctional relationships became normal.[…] It’s hard to describe the exploitation—it was just everywhere, it was just a part of life. Girls would come to the corner I was working beat up or looking downcast because they had been emotionally abused by their pimp. There was this girl who tried working my corner, we got into a huge fight, and then I realized how young she was. I tried to protect her; she was supposed to be in a foster home, but she was being pimped out. Then one day, she just disappeared. I saw her pimp a few weeks later and asked him where she was. He just laughed and said, “She’s gone. I sold her at a truck stop.” […] So many people today  have this image of a trafficking victim tied up in a room or black and blue with bruises—they don’t understand that many of the girls and women being trafficked are in love with their traffickers or pimps, and that these exploiters use subtle coercion, not just outright violence. The relationships are multi layered, complex; remember most exploiters have been at this for years and they know the best way to control a prostituted woman is through mental and emotional manipulation. The upside for them is this doesn’t leave bruises. I knew a pimp who actually went to community college to take psychology to control his girls; he just saw it as an investment of his time. […] If we decriminalize prostitution we’d be saying it’s open season on our women especially our marginalized and vulnerable, when it’s them we should be protecting the most. We would be standing in agreement with the eroticization of poverty, the ignoring of mental health issues, colonization, addiction, and racism—instead of dealing with them we will be offering them up to men’s sexual demands and saying that this is acceptable. We would be saying that this is sexy and let’s take advantage of it. The marginalized and vulnerable would be more marginalized and vulnerable because no one would be helping them or looking out for them. And men would be on their worst behavior; because everyone would be saying what you’re doing is ok. Violence will increase.[…]”

Australia – Natalie: “[…] I finally decided to move overseas—to Australia, so that I could one day return home with more options. I could study there and use the qualifications I earned back in my home country. I had so many dreams; I was happy. I went on my first ever plane trip! However, Australia was worse than my home country. I was told when I got to Sydney that I had a debt of $6000AUD plus commission per job, plus rent, plus transport, plus cleaning, and everything else they charged for. If you were five minutes late they charged you $50. It all adds up. And this was in a ‘legal’ brothel. I could not say no to clients—no way! I couldn’t even stop and sit for a minute. I had to do it as many times in one hour as the client could do it. Three months felt like 30 years. We could sleep for maybe three hours a night, starting work at noon, finishing at 6am. Eventually, I managed to run away from there too. […]”

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 India – Ayesha: “I was born in a small village in Jessore, Bangladesh. My father was a simple farmer. We were poor, but all of my eight brothers and sisters went to school. I was known in my village as the girl with the golden voice. Growing up, my songs were about the earth, the sky, and my village. But when I met the man I wanted to marry, my songs changed to my love for him. […] It is very common for girls to marry early in rural India and Bangladesh. Since women are valued mostly as homemakers and mothers, families have no incentive to keep their daughters in school. The older a girl gets, the more her family will have to pay for her dowry. For these reasons, many of my friends were already married when the question was posed to me. […] I still remember that moment when my whole world shattered into pieces. I’ve been tortured and abused, and survived serious injuries inflicted by buyers and pimps, but nothing hurts as much as the pain of being deceived by the man I loved. For a whole month, I resisted the ‘aunt,’ who I learned was really a brothel madam. The owner of the brothel grew impatient and raped me, as he did to all new girls. He ordered the brothel madam to beat me with a leather belt every day. I still bear these marks on my body. I was kept locked inside a room, with no food or water, for days. […] When people tell me that women choose this life, I can’t help but laugh. Do they know how many women like me have tried to escape, but have been beaten black and blue when they are caught? To the men who buy us, we are like meat. To everybody else in society, we simply do not exist. […]”

Lithuania – Loreta: “I was born near the Lithuania–Latvia border. Since my alcoholic parents were incapable of caring for me, social workers sent me to a state-run children’s home. My seven brothers and six sisters were also sent to group homes, scattered across the country. […] My sister and her friend told  us to chat with them, but I told them that we didn’t feel comfortable meeting the men whom we didn’t understand. Dana grew angry and demanded we talk to them. She said we owed her friend money for the taxi ride that she had promised to pay for. She asked me if I really didn’t understand where I was and what we were expected to do. I had no idea. That’s when Dana explained she’d invited us over to sell our bodies. […] That night after I sold my body, I felt repulsed. I wouldn’t get out of the shower until I washed everything away. I felt so humiliated. I heard my friends crying too. […] When I turned 17, the madam told us that a pimp was selling us abroad. One girl was sold in Poland, two in Budapest, and the rest of us were taken to Ravenna, Italy. When we arrived, we were sold to men whose language we didn’t understand. They took us to a brothel filled with women aged 14-32, trafficked from Belorussia, Poland, and Lithuania. We had to take care of our clients in the public restrooms within 15 minutes. Pimps prevented us from escaping and used violence to force us to work in the streets. […]

Uganda – Concy: “[…] When I was nine years old, my life changed suddenly. On the night of May 22, 2000, rebels with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) descended on our home. My mother and I were asleep in our hut when they barged in and woke us up by kicking down the door. Five men caught us right away. One man held me down, ripped off my blouse, and tied me up. I watched in horror as another man beat my mother badly. […] All the girls were divided among the male fighters as “wives.” The leaders believed the male fighters would escape if they did not have “wives” to fulfill their sexual desires.[…] When I was 10 years old, I was married against my will to a Brigade Commander. The first time he forced me to have sex; I bled and cried a lot. I was in great pain, but my “husband” had a gun next to him and I had seen him use it before so I tried to stop crying. […] When I returned home, my mother accepted me despite my past. However, my neighbors and community were afraid of me and shunned me; they knew I was forced to commit unspeakable acts of violence. Life was difficult even at home. […] One day when I was 15, I was walking home from school when a man around 19 years old approached me and forcibly took me into his hut deep in the bush. I tried to fight the man, but he was too strong. No one was around to help me or hear my screams. When I went home, my mom chased me away, telling me to go back to the man since he was my husband now. I didn’t want to go back to him; I wanted to go to school. However, I had nowhere else to go, so I returned to him and soon grew pregnant with my daughter. […]”

Our backs tell stories no books have the spine to carry 

Rupi Kaur

Nigeria/Germany – Grace:  I was given the passport of an African woman from a different country and then transported with another woman to Germany. Once I arrived, I was told that my debt was 50,000 euro (around 67,000 USD) which I realized would take a very long time to repay. My family’s contact then told me that to pay the debt, I would be working as a prostitute in brothels (which are legalized in Germany). It was then that I realized that my family’s contact was a madam. I refused and called my parents to explain what was happening, but they told me to obey her and do whatever she told me to do. I didn’t have any papers and didn’t know my rights. She said that if I asked anyone for help, I would be deported, so I didn’t think I had any choice but to become a prostitute. In Nigeria, we respect Germany. I didn’t even think that they did this as a job in Germany; in Italy and Spain, we know there is prostitution. My mother begged me to do what they said. I cried every time a man slept with me, because I was brought up Christian. Back in Nigeria, the father of my son had raped me, and this reminded me of that over and over. […] Men demanded sex without condoms. At a well-known legal brothel, the owners told me directly that I had to have sex without condoms, otherwise I would be fired […] I found out then that I had AIDS. My madam managed to track me down after I left the hospital and told me that I had to continue being a prostitute to pay for the remaining debt, which she said was still more than half of the 50,000 euro. I refused and she started threatening me and my family back home, who begged me to comply. By then, I had become acquainted with SOLWODI, and they helped me to get settled and exit prostitution. I refused to go back to my madam and eventually reported her and her accomplices to the police. […] 

Germany – K: [..] I’d known my pimp since I was 11 years old. He was my 46-year-old riding instructor and he made me into his “mistress” when I was 14 years old. I dreamt of living together with this man who was 35 years older than me. He told me we would have our own horse ranch—a childhood dream of mine. He told me that in order to achieve our dream of a future together, we would need money, and the quickest way to get this money was for me to—just temporarily, of course—work as a prostitute. Over time, he managed to completely isolate me from my friends and family, and started “training” me to be a prostitute by showing me how to perform various sex acts and by taking me on visits to brothels. Soon my “loving and fatherly” riding teacher increasingly revealed himself to be a “Loverboy” (a man who pretends to be a woman or girl’s boyfriend in order to lure her into prostitution). In 2000, when I was 17, I ran away from home with him and he put me in a brothel. His earlier promises of love and a future together were now followed by beatings, rapes and humiliation. There was no way back for me. He was the only person I had in this world and I didn’t want to lose him. After all, I loved him.[…] 

 

 

 

 

 

 

¹https://www.equalitynow.org/campaigns/trafficking-survivor-stories

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Hello there! My name is Mariamawit or Maria for short, I am currently a third-year student of Global Governance at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, all the way from Ethiopia. This Blog presents itself as a great opportunity to show its readers how I view the world and express my ideas and thoughts on matters that concerns all of us, as we are living in a complex and ever-changing world. Moreover, I would like to focus on issues that are worth our time and attention, and that are often neglected. We live in a global village, where the concept of distance no longer exists as we are interconnected thanks to the digital era, which is an important factor I would like to take advantage of to exchange ideas, comments and opinions with the rest of the world. Thus, becoming one in our differences!

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