It was a busy night in a centrally located strip club. I was called up on stage, usually this would be my biggest chance to advertise myself, usually I took joy in the freedom of the stage, away from grabbing hands, cutting put downs and lewd propositions, but that night I felt differently, I deliberately put zero effort in, I took the opportunity of the raised platform to look on at the customers; to really look at them. I’d never done this before, I always blanked them out, painted over their faces with my ever adjustable rose tinted spectacles in order to put up with their shit. I didn’t like what I saw, for the first time in years I put myself in the position of the observer and not the observed. What I saw was greed, disgust, hate and contempt. I saw how these men really viewed me and not the lie I had been sold by my traffickers not the princess programming whereby objectification equates to love.
The strip club was my in and my out. I entered as soon as I was of legal age, four years after I’d been targeted by a grooming gang at age fourteen. Being a victim of childhood sexual abuse from the age of seven, I was no stranger to exploitation and I had long since formed my self and worldview in line with the objectification and abuse I’d experienced as a child.
I met my pimp age seventeen, having runaway from the childhood abuse occurring at home, being unsupported by my mother who was struggling with her own victimisation, alcoholism and domestic abuse, I came to stay in a hostel for young adults, it was at this time my first pimp drip fed me the concept of prostituting my body in return for material gain. He would buy me expensive gifts and use them as blackmail to coerce me into doing things sexually I did not want to do. His level of control was slow burning, calculated and callous and I was out of my depth.
By the time I had broke away from my first pimp, who I still believed to be my boyfriend at the time, I fell into the hands of another pimp who also pretended to be my boyfriend. He offered me a shelter over my head and kindness which I had been alien to my whole life. He gave me a sense of belonging, he heard me and he saw me. He fulfilled my childhood need of being protected, listened to and cherished, or so I thought.
It wasn’t long until he began extracting money out of me from the prostitution I was now so painfully and horrifically entrenched in. The bond between us only strengthened the more trauma I was subjected to at both his and the sex industry’s disposal. He was all I had left, I had sold out on my morals, I had no roof over my head and my self esteem was non existent. My entire self worth was deeply and intricately entwined with how much money I made, I literally perceived myself to be an object, there was no way out of that, but at least I could make some money in the process, this was the lie which was perpetuated again and again and again, one of powerlessness but prostitution alone equates to female power.
Another lie I told myself was that I chose prostitution and yet simultaneously I had no choice or else I’d be out on the streets, or dead. It is to no surprise my mind split in two in order to cope with the cognitive dissonance, constant threats to life by both punters, my pimp and the big bad world at large.
I had been failed by others and authority so many times before, you must know that the arrival of prostitution and in turn my pimps was the last stop on a train to nowhere where nobody heard my screams, not the teachers, not the GP’s, not the police, not social services, not the hospital and not my neighbours who regularly heard or witnessed the abuse I was subject to as a child. I had reached the land of no hope and so in turn my spirit momentarily died.
Being subjected to disgusting, unhygienic, women hating men who were often twice or three times my age, often high ranking military personnel, politicians, bankers and wealthy influencers, I clung onto the “good” clients, the ones who bought me presents and “saved” me from the evil ones who intended to choke me to oblivion, threaten me with weapons, remove condoms without consent, force me to enact sick incestural role play and engage in depraved, unsafe, painful acts of servitude. I could not say no, there were too many bad guys, the proportion of them was too much and so I found myself trying to manage the lesser of evils in order to make a living, it didn’t work.
I began to spiral and alcohol along with cocaine became my form of both escape and self sabotage, I also started to binge eat daily as a form of protection from the men who preferred skinny, child like women to devour.
Inevitably the brothel I was under sacked me as I could no longer bring in the revenue I used to, my heart was hardened, my stance that of standoffishness, I was not the innocent girl who walked in, I was an unlikable, deliberately repulsive, tainted individual who just wanted to be left alone and for the rapes to stop.
After briefly trying another brothel to no avail my spirit began to awaken from it’s slumber. I was angry and I wanted out, even if I died trying, in my mind, it would be death by boyfriend or death by H.I.V from all the men who removed condoms before I could stop them, from all the men who ignored my boundaries and put my health and life in jeopardy. I decided a quick death to be a better choice than a slow, painful one filled with shame for not at least trying to leave.
That is how I ended up back in the strip clubs, I had a plan to ease my way out gradually, I didn’t know how, I just felt my way around in the darkness and moved myself slightly further away from death.
This is what brought me atop the stage that night, looking on in disgust at what I was a part of, a deep realisation that the things these men told me about myself were not true. I was not a bitch, a whore, not worthless, I was not a piece of meat, I was not meant for one thing only, I was far from stupid and I was capable of more than this, I felt, above it all.
I made an excuse to the house mum of the club that I needed to leave, she blocked my path and screamed that I shan’t be doing that, I owed her money. I calmly informed her that keeping me against my will would constitute false imprisonment. She threatened to sack me, I sacked myself before she could finish her sentence and stormed out. I walked the three hour journey home in the dead of the night and vowed never ever again to return to the sex industry, a target of street objectification but feeling more free. I fired back and roared at the street harassers. I was scared, I did not know how I would survive without an income. I had no real belief in God, preferring to endorse alternate forms of spirituality, I never really cemented my faith.
In the silence of the early hours of the morning, I asked God to please tell me this will be okay, please give me some hope and I turned the bible I had been gifted for my christening to a spontaneous page. Here is what it read:
A psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
God spoke to me from within and gave me a promise. “If you leave forever, I will save you, I will never leave you, you will be safe all you have to do is trust me”
It took quite a bit of encouragement and reassurance from God but it turns out that was the night I stuck my middle finger up to the sex industry. That was the night my spirit truly and permanently became resurrected from the dead.
To this day, that inner voice never leaves me and gives me guidance when I need it. It saved me from suicide, helped me recover buried memories of childhood trauma and kept me from death by homelessness multiple times.
I have been on a calling back to God and I would not be alive today had I not had the many small and cumulative interventions that got me where I am now.
Thanks to God, I escaped trafficking, H.I.V, death by domestic violence, and homelessness. He led me through the waters out of Egypt and sanctified my soul.
I am now a mother to an amazing child, advocate for other survivors and I get to do all the things in life which give me freedom to create and grow.
I now get to carve out a path for those who too are in a state of being lost, with spirit half out of body and without hope. It would be a lie if I did not state so plainly that it was God who saved me.
I am not your typical christian, rough around the edges, I have not yet found a church, I have my flaws, I swear a little too much and I am a work in progress but I am saved and will remain so forever more.