CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU DID?
“It was prostitution.”
WHERE WERE YOU LIVING AT THE TIME?
“[I was] living in Belgium then. [I lived] at my sister’s house sometimes, sometimes I was homeless, then in closed houses (rooming houses for prostitutes, similar to a brothel).”
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE THERE?
“I was born in Belgium, and I had to leave my parent’s home really early because they were mentally ill. Then I had to live by myself. I studied art. I tried to earn money some different places. Then I had to find solutions to survive. My family are not really people who cared about us. Then my sister tried to help me a little, but in her own way, which was not always the best.
Like when she didn’t want me home because she was moody, she let me sleep outside.”
“We were starving. I was with my sister and she decided to get into it. I didn’t want too, but she finally brought me there when I was 19 because she couldn’t handle doing it alone.”
DID YOUR FAMILY OR FRIENDS KNOW WHERE YOU WERE WORKING? WHAT DID THEY THINK?
“I was by myself most of the time. The only friends I made were people I would meet in the clubs on the weekend. I used to go there every weekend to meet people so they would let me sleep at their home. Most of the time I had sex with them, but not the same way as during the week. My mother knew but always pretended she didn’t know or understand. My father knew too and he actually sent some of his friends to my sister and me. My little brother just found out a few years ago. He cried. And my other older sister was actually jealous. She was married and she thought that it would be something to experiment with. She also thought that the fact that I was doing it (working) with the third sister would make us closer than she and I were. So she was jealous of that relationship. That was the only thing she cared about. The sister who brought me there still lives in Belgium. She still does it a few times a month to have extra money. She has a daughter and she wants her to have everything she needs.”
DOES YOUR SISTER’S DAUGHTER KNOW WHAT SHE DOES?
“No. She’s only 4.”
“When I start a relationship, I feel like I have to tell the boyfriend. They usually cry or feel sorry for me. After a few months, it always winds up coming up, usually when we argue. I’ve been told “you were a whore, you should be happy just to have a boyfriend”. My friend’s reactions when I have talked about it was something different. They are proud of me. They say that I made out great and that I can be proud because I got out of it. I got out of prostitution, of drugs and alcohol. And that I am a teacher, a good teacher today.
My family hates me though. They say I think I am better than them because I got away. They are mad at me when I don’t want to be with them, or drink with them or if I tell my brother not to drink so much. They make fun of me. They treat me like I am from another world.”
SO, WHAT MADE YOU STOP?
“I didn’t want to start in the first place. Any free time I had between customers, even though I was on drugs, I kept reading and studying. I read history books, math, english, etc, I desperately wanted to keep my brain alive. Girls were laughing at me all the time. Pimps and customers would make fun of me too sometimes, because I was “different”. I have always been a dreamer and I always thought that I would be someone in life. I knew I did not belong where I was. It was not my world. I hated everything. I was losing myself. I was spending all that money that I didn’t want to keep on cocaine and speed, “ecstasy”, alcohol, make-up and clothes. I felt like that was a useless life. So one night I was crying, I didn’t say anything to the other girls, I stole money and got a taxi. I ran away to a guy I knew’s home. I stayed there a while and even tried to join the army. My test results were good, but they didn’t want me anyway. I guess because of the troubles with the police that I had had before. So finally I ran away to the south of France. I worked in restaurants. I got to be a manager. Since then I have met good people who helped me to get back, to get into school (to become an art teacher). I studied French and Art History. I like to teach kids that have a sad life.”
DO YOU WORRY YOU WILL EVER GO BACK TO THAT?
“Sometimes, when I have problems with money, I think about it. Sometimes I even miss those moments. Like the pain is home. Like I was made for that. If I feel weak, I will think that I really want to get back there because pain seems easier than being happy. I don’t understand when things work out well. It’s like I am always waiting for something bad to happen. If it doesn’t then I feel like I want to hurry and destroy it myself. That way I know that I am ready for the pain.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WHO MIGHT BE WORKING IN A SIMILAR SITUATION?
“Yes! So many… [If you are already doing it] don’t take too many drugs even though it seems easier when you are on drugs. Keep your brain safe. Don’t take your eye off of the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t stop believing you are somebody. Do not give up your dreams. Don’t listen to what people say. Just keep yourself safe and keep your mind on that. Life is full of surprises, and tomorrow may be different. You don’t have to be who people want you to be. [If you’re doing this because you think you have to] keep your money. Save what you can. Don’t spend it all on drugs. Have a goal to get out and keep it. And don’t listen to people that say you’re not beautiful, because “whore” is just a word. You are beautiful, you just don’t know it… one day, you’ll open your eyes and see.
WHAT IS THE STRANGEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU IN THE LINE OF WORK?
“My pimp, the second one, was a woman. She acted like my mother. I believed it and I did everything she wanted me to. She knew my weaknesses and she used them. I once had to have sex with a customer and my sister at the same time. It was... weird. It made me angry and sadder than I have ever been.
Another time a man tried to put me in the back of his car and lock me in because he wanted to keep me, to make me his wife. I’ve had people who wanted me to pee on them, call them daddy... some wanted to hurt me and wanted me to beg them to stop... but I couldn’t. Someone else had to come in and stop them because I couldn’t even feel anything at that point- only hate. One day though a man paid 500 euros to bring me to the room and he just said to me, “chose the music you want, put it on, and just relax. We wont have sex. This is your hour, do what you want. I won’t touch you.” Because in this world, even if everything is crazy and fucked up, there is still always going to be some beauty.”