In Ireland, four former sex workers tell their stories.
I was taught from the tender age of seven that my worth was between my legs. How I knew this was that I was raped repeatedly by a family member at the age of seven.
It was only reinforced by my mother, who was a prostitute, that my value was between my legs. As long as I had a vagina, I should never be broke. I believed this.
So when I was poached at the age of 15 by yet another family member, I had already been groomed. I lied to myself and stayed in the life until my own daughter was sexually assaulted.
What I know now is that coming from my dysfunctional family home, I didn’t choose this life, this life chose me.
As a frontline service provider, I witness first-hand the damages of the sex-trade – the damage that is caused to women who are bought and sold.
I was lured and debased into prostitution at the age of 12 from a group home. I remained enslaved for 10 years in prostitution. I was paraded like cattle in front of men who were able to purchase me. And the acts that they did to me was something that no little girl should ever have to endure.
Because of the men, I cannot have children normally because of trauma to my cervix. To this day I still have nightmares, and sometimes I sleep with the lights on. I feel damaged and not worthy.
I was traded in legal establishments, street corners and strip bars. The scariest thing that ever happened to me was being held captive for 43 hours and raped and tortured repeatedly at the age of 14 by a sexual predator who preyed on exploited girls.
My first pimp was a woman who owned an illegal brothel. I was groomed to say I was her daughter’s friend if the police ever asked. My second pimp made me prostitute for money. He was supposed to be my bodyguard, but that turned out to be one big lie. They are both still out there, doing the same things to other little girls.
I believe prostitution is not a choice. It’s lack of choice that keeps women and girls enslaved. Most of us were children who were forgotten, neglected, abused, and not protected.
A huge majority of women and children in prostitution have experienced pimp violence. This is far from the pretty picture that is often painted. We have been afraid, raped, beaten, sold and discarded.
It’s not just another job.