On the 12th November, 2014 I attended and spoke at the CAP International conference held at the National Assembly in Paris, France. I, along with four other survivors got to address the audience, this is my address. The only thing worse then everybody knowing the following information is the thought of nobody ever knowing.
WELCOME TO MY TRUTH PARIS
Bonjour, je mapelle Mia et je pense donc je suis, for I will never deny where heroin and prostitution brought me but I refuse to let it define who I am today, because if it defines me, it becomes me and it is not all I am.
The purchase of another human being for sex, it is not and never has been the purchase of sex, because neither I nor any of the other women stand on the street or in the brothels with our genitalia and our mouths and throats in neatly wrapped packages which you could borrow and return to us. No, I had to go with them, you had to talk to me first, my mind was present the whole time.
You always have to buy the person before you gain access to their body. The first principle of equality as I heard Simon Haggstrom, one of Europe’s leading protectors of human dignity describe is that no human being should have control over the body of another human being, and that is what prostitution is.
My first experience of violence was extreme as it came in the form of a gang rape that lasted for what seemed like forever, and in many ways it will, for from that night on, I no longer lived, I just existed and in a world I could no longer comprehend, I could no longer make sense of.
I left a building with a bruised body and face, smelling of urine and bleeding from my rectum. do you now understand how I couldn’t see the choices anymore, and the only reason I coped was through disassociation, the young woman who was with me that night did not survive, her drug use spiralled out of control and she died alone of an overdose about 2mths later. To many her death would be just another sad statistic but to me her life will always be of value. The events of that night exposed me to such human wickedness, but apart from my own endurance, it tore me apart to witness what was left of a young 27yr old woman’s sanity disappear before my very eyes, and there is a little boy who will now grow up never knowing just how hard his mother was trying to get away, he will never know how kind and wonderful she was, prostitution has robbed him of that and from countless other children as well.
My next rape was a year or so later by a lone offender off the street where I stood, the next I’m not sure if I can call it rape, it happened the same night, I was sitting on the ground on the street after the attack, my money and my phone had also been taken, just sitting disorientated and alone, with an aching body and a struggling mind, when a regular of mine pulled up, he got out of the car, picked me up and offered to drive me home, I told him what had happened and he even stopped and bought me a coffee but just before we reached my home, he pulled in and reminded me that I had no money to pay him, but that I could sort him out, I didn’t even argue, I just leaned back and let him, so what do you call that, someone who has sex with a woman they know has been raped about an hour or so beforehand.
My last rape was by two young men, high on cocaine, one watched while the other did it but to me he is just as guilty. I have countless accounts of humiliations, being urinated on, etc. of oral rape, in fact I have no gag reflex, the muscles at the back of your throat learn to relax, and they have to.
We are already considered the lowest of the low, what I am trying to say is if you set up the conditions for rape, it will happen, I don’t mean myself and my friend alone in a appt with 8 men, we as prostituted women are a prime target for any buyer who wants to fulfil the violent sexual crime of rape only with us they can do it and get away with it and both society and the laws that govern it play a major role in keeping it that way, and it will remain un-punishable while it remains legal to buy another human being in the first place. So, now for me heroin had become a lifeline to cope with being bought, where it began with selling myself to cope with heroin, welcome to the paradox, that so very few of us escape from. I am one of the lucky few.
We exist out there underneath a shadow of the constant threat of violence, a dark cloud of fear hovers around us permanently, but it is the fear as Aristotle would describe, where fear is the pain you feel on the anticipation of the arrival of evil and in prostitution that evil arrives all too often but the most frightening thing about this kind of fear is that it is state sanctioned.
Prostitution and Sex trafficking are intrinsically linked, you have one because of the other. For the last 18mths of my time on the street, I stood alongside a trafficked woman, she became my closest friend and I have never seen a human being so broken down. The conditions under which she lived were so inhumane and she had developed a twisted sense of loyalty to her controller, that someone had trafficked her from home, right across Europe and finally landing in Ireland, at this stage she had been completely broken down, his control was all that she knew, he would beat her if she was challenging, kept her passport, she was put out on the street at 6pm and she stayed there until 5a/m every night, she was addicted to crack cocaine and he was the dealer, she had to return with every 100 euro’s, she made nothing. But although we had arrived at the same place through different means we are connected because we were bought, used, exploited, humiliated and raped by the same buyers, one night I would be bought and a few nights later the same man could buy her and on a couple of occasions we were bought together, and that connection can never be broken by anyone, at any time, in any country.
I use to think that as bad and as disconnected as my own life was at least I got to go home at night, but I find it unimaginable to think of what it must be like to be in a country where you know no one and maybe you don’t even speak the same language.
I will end the story of my African friend with one of the saddest things I ever seen and for me it puts it all into perspective, I was at home one night alone, as my daughter had become ill and needed some in-patient care, my phone rang, there had been a row between her, her trafficker and another girl. I told her to come to my home as I was on my own; I had always kept home and the street completely separate.
She arrived, crying uncontrollably, I’d never seen her so upset; I hugged her and checked her wounds, as she had blood all over her hands, but thankfully everything was superficial. It doesn’t really matter what the fight was about, control, drugs, etc. I made her coffee and we had a cigarette together. I said I would run her a bath as she looked exhausted. I ran the bath and called her in. I left her to relax and went in the other room, I was closing my window, when she called me, I turned around and what I saw shocked me to the core, for there in front of me my friend stood naked, but she had the body of a child, her rips stuck out, there were no breasts, it was covered in old bruises, new bruises, scratches, she looked like someone who’d just been released from a concentration camp, my eyes welled up but I didn’t want her to see me cry, so I brought her into the bathroom again, she had called me to wash her hair as her arms were sore, I washed her hair, took her out of the bath, and she sat in between my legs on the floor as I brushed and blow-dried her hair, she was humming just like a child, I put her to bed and sat beside her until she fell asleep. And then I cried for the lost child I had just put to bed, I’ll never forget the image I saw that night but this was not a concentration camp, in Poland in 1945, this was my apartment, Dublin, 2010, there was no war but there is no law to protect either.
Protecting the good citizen, I believe this is where some people struggle because for the most part the men who buy human beings for sex are exactly that, they are good citizen’s, in that they are in gainful employment, so they pay their taxes, they pay their rent or buy homes with their partners, they have 2.4 children, they tick every box the society deems to be correct, so we allow them this little indulgence, how we allow it is again through silence and keeping it legal. For the men who bought me and all the other women, the men that feed this twisted industry, they walk among you everyday, they are fathers, husbands, colleagues etc. we don’t want to acknowledge that the good citizen can behave like a bad human being, I understand that fear, for we hate to upset societies little applecart but at who’s expense do we do that!
I, on the other hand would be viewed as a bad citizen, I didn’t have a job, I was supported by the state, I was a heroin addict and worst of all, I stood on a public street displaying my wears, luring these good citizens to me, as if they had no choice. But I am a good human being, I always have been. This is the balance you must find between the good citizen and the good human being and which one of us comes first in the queue for protection.
So how do we ensure that that happens, well we follow Sweden’s lead, Sweden placed human dignity first. They fully understand the concept of human dignity, which is the value and respect we place on one another as humans being. What happens when we place human dignity first, as Sweden has proved beyond doubt is that the good triumphs, where as in countries that have placed it last, evil thrives, as is abundantly evident in the countries that have either decriminalised, legalised and under torrelating regimes. That evil is both human trafficking and the place where vulnerable women and children are trafficked into, which is prostitution, where they join the addicted, disconnected and damaged women like myself who are also trapped but in a different way, to service the wants of a particular group of men.
I do believe that most evils in the world are committed by nobodies, and further more I believe it is now time that the nobodies where brought to bear and made accountable and responsible for the cruel industry and slave trade they willingly sustain and uphold, in fact it only exists because of them. I would like nothing more than for the police who tried but in vain to protect me to be given the green light to do exactly that, to be given the powers and legislation that will fine offenders, jail the real pimps and coercers and send out a clear message to the traffickers that women are no longer for sale because there is no anti-trafficking law which is more powerful than getting the use of another man’s slave.
This law is about the protection of the most vulnerable human beings, many of whom are being rescued with bar codes and bondage debt’s tattooed to their bodies, I do not believe that Europe’s memory is that short. This law is about the protection of human dignity and freedom, and when human dignity is in jeopardy and human lives are endangered, political differences and sensitivities become irrelevant.
The one sure thing that six years of deeply personal anthropological insight into sexual exploitation has thought me is that prostitution is not compatible with humanity and we either choose one or the other.