Testimonials

Vednita Carter
"Just because dancing (stripping) is legal does not mean it’s not violence against women - Stripping and prostitution go hand in hand."

I never day-dreamed about becoming a prostituted woman when I grew up, life just happened. Upon graduating high school in the early 70’s my mission was to attend college and get a degree in business. My vision for myself was not so different from other seniors who were also in my graduating class. I and a friend of mine decided to find a job over the summer months so that we would have money for college. The majority of adds in the newspaper read “Dancers needed, make big money, $1,000 per week”. This was quite a lot of money in the early 70’s. The two of us were no stranger to dancing, we thought “this is going to be easy money”. We went for the interview and were hired, we were told to start immediately which was the next day.

It took all of a couple of weeks to see that what I was doing was far from dancing; all in all, one thing led to another, me and my friend were separated within a month. The more seductive and sexual that I could dance the more money I made. Stripping turned into prostitution very quickly it became clear that this is where the real money was, after all every man in the audience was a trick and the club owners had no problems setting you up with them.

It took me almost one year to get out of this life, my friend was not as lucky. I never saw her again until we were both in our early 50’s. I asked her how and when did she get out of the life, she told me that she just got out, she said her boyfriend (pimp) had just recently died. Unfortunately not long after his death she went to sleep and never woke up. She was in her late 50’s. I always say I am one of the lucky ones. I was able to get out within one year. Just because dancing (stripping) is legal does not mean it’s not violence against women - stripping and prostitution go hand in hand.

- Vednita Carter, St Paul, USA
Tanja Rahm
"For me, sexual abuse was a direct route into prostitution. The same kind of destructive abuse chosen by myself, because I knew this feeling and recognised myself in this situation, even though the situation traumatised me over and over again."

Growing up in a home with alcohol and violence is so damaging for children. What I learned was to behave and make everybody happy no matter what I felt, needed or wanted. I wasn´t allowed to have any boundaries and being a witness to violence against my mother traumatised me in so many ways. When pedophiles showed up and gave me this harmful kind of attention it was so ambivalent. Because I was desperate to feel that I was wanted, needed and liked, but they utilised that desperation and abused me in different ways from when I was between 10-17 years old.

For me, sexual abuse was a direct route into prostitution. The same kind of destructive abuse chosen by myself, because I knew this feeling and recognised myself in this situation, even though the situation traumatised me over and over again. But I didn’t know better. I thought that the only winning-hand I had was my sexuality, and I sold it to feel that I had some kind of power or control over the abuse. That I maybe wasn´t abused, but that I chose to be what the men wanted from me. Sometimes it doesn’t even make any sense to me. But I know that exceeding or breaking a child´s boundaries can ruin that child’s life – not only in the exact situation, but for the rest of that person’s life.

We need to fight this violence. And we can start by saying no to the paid sexual abuse that is the buying of sex. Because those who say they chose it, can choose something else. Those who didn’t, can’t!

- Tanja Rahm, Copenhagen, Denmark
Autumn Burris
"My body, mind, and spirit survived so many things for so many years. The sexual exploitation and violence I endured was almost like something that happened to someone else. If I had told myself the truth about what was being done to me, my psyche would have splintered into a million pieces."

Sexual exploitation began for me as an adult woman orchestrated by organized crime in the stripping industry. After experiencing many forms of gender-based violence-teen dating violence, gang rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, sexual assault, stalking and police brutality, I deemed myself worthless. In my life, one form of violence led to another and the cycle repeated itself throughout my adulthood, normalizing violence and abuse.

Self-deception of worthlessness and normalized violence and abuse made me vulnerable to the sex trade and the traffickers who profit from it. It took me sixteen years and an important question to realize I was trafficked, as we didn’t have that language back then and were simply deemed “bad girls”. My life’s passion is to abolish the sex trade, debunk erroneous myths and expose sexual exploitation as a harmful practice of abuse towards largely women and girls based on toxic male masculinity and entitlement to women’s bodies. My work stems from my lived experiences and it is my honor to effect positive change and social recognition for survivors through public speaking, training, best practices, testimony and public policy work world-wide.

My body, mind, and spirit survived so many things for so many years. The sexual exploitation and violence I endured was almost like something that happened to someone else. If I had told myself the truth about what was being done to me, my psyche would have splintered into a million pieces.

Prostitution occurs at the nexus of racial, economic and gender-based violence and oppression. It constitutes a violation of the most fundamental human rights and embodies harms unimaginable. For the vast majority of those exploited, it is NOT chosen and stems from a toxic combination of vulnerabilities. In practice, prostitution and trafficking are inextricable. There can be no end to trafficking and sexual exploitation without strong abolitionist politics and a firm commitment to dismantling systems of prostitution.

- Autumn Burris, Denver, USA
Bridget Perrier
"I was able to exit prostitution and rebuild my life, and with that my education became a tool. I was recognized for my tenacity and my strength and have been able now to be an asset to my community and to my people."

My name is Wasaya Kwe. My English name is Bridget Perrier. I represent the many First Nations women and girls who are enslaved in prostitution or trafficked. I was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario and placed up for adoption. I was adopted by a good family who tried to raise me the best way possible, but as I got older the effects of colonialism, intergenerational trauma, and childhood sexual abuse made me a perfect candidate for prostitution.

I was lured and debased into prostitution at the age of 12 from a child welfare-run group home. I remained enslaved in prostitution for ten years. I was sold to men who felt privileged to steal my innocence and invade my body. I was paraded like cattle in front of men who were able to purchase me, and the things that we done to me were something no little girl should ever have to endure here in Canada, the land of the free.

Because of the men, I cannot have a child normally, because of trauma towards my cervix. Also, still to this day I have nightmares, and sometimes I sleep with the lights on. My trauma is deep, and I sometimes feel as though I'm frozen—or even worse, I feel damaged and not worthy. I was traded in legal establishments, street corners, and strip clubs. I even had a few trips across the Great Lakes servicing shipmen at the age of 13.

The scariest thing that happened to me was being held captive for a period of 43 hours and raped and tortured repeatedly at 14 years of age by a sexual predator who preyed on exploited girls. My exploiters made a lot of money and tried to break me, but I fought for my life. My first pimp was a woman who owned a legal brothel, where I was groomed to say that I was her daughter's friend if the police ever asked.

My second pimp was introduced to me when I was in Toronto. I had to prostitute for money. He was supposed to be a bodyguard, but that turned out to be one big lie. Both are out there still, doing the same thing to more little girls somewhere here in Canada.

I was able to exit prostitution and rebuild my life, and with that my education became a tool. I was recognized for my tenacity and my strength and have been able now to be an asset to my community and to my people. I am a mother, activist, and warrior woman, and now my experience may be sacrificial at times, but I am doing it for Canada's First Nations women and girls who are being bought and sold and are missing or murdered.

We must look at who is doing this. It's the men. I believe that prostitution is not a choice, but that it's lack of choice that keeps women and girls enslaved. I believe everyone should be shown a viable way out of the sex trade and not be encouraged to stay in it. I believe in helping people understand the full price of prostitution before they become involved and in helping women get out alive with their minds, bodies, and lives intact. We have been collectively afraid, raped, beaten, sold, discarded. Most of us were also children who were forgotten, neglected, abused, used, led astray, abandoned, and not protected.

I supported my daughter throughout the Vancouver BC missing women inquiry, and the outcome of it was this: our mothers, sisters, and daughters are not born to be used and sold for men's sexual needs. We are not commodities. Our women are sacred. They are valued and loved, and as life givers and nurturers, we are equal.

I applaud Canada for recognizing the inherent dangers and abuses for those who are prostituted. This is a victory for survivors and those who are stuck in the vicious cycle of indignity and pain.

Chi-miigwetch.

- Bridget Perrier, Toronto, Canada
Marie Merklinger
"What I know today is that women are victimised by the system of prostitution by innumerable perpetrators, and at the same time victimised by a society which is not only allowing but encouraging prostitution by accepting it as a 'job like any other'. We are victims of a society blind in one eye, advancing the wealth of a privileged few over the suffering of an incalculable number of women and children."

I entered prostitution in my early forties. I had lost my job because it was a short-term contract and it was difficult to find a new one. The unpaid bills mounted up and the only way to get out of the situation was to find some kind of work. After I had sold all the possessions on ebay that I could live without, I decided, in deep fear and desperation, to sell my body.

After I had made the decision, initially it felt good to know I was getting the financial situation under control. I was relieved that I had found a way to improve my situation on my own and to leave the pressure and fear of poverty behind me. I somehow believed as well that it was a meaningful step for me as a woman, a sexually liberating step, but it was like crossing an invisible border and at the same time removing all boundaries.

I offered my body to be abused for money. With the first ‘date’ it was crystal clear that prostitution is not about fulfilling a woman’s sexual desire. Prostitution is by its nature all about fulfilling men’s sexual fantasies without caring one bit about women’s desires, boundaries, humiliation, shame, pain or disgust.

What I know today is that women are victimised by the system prostitution by innumerable perpetrators, and at the same time victimised by a society which is not only allowing but encouraging prostitution by accepting it as a 'job like any other'. We are victims of a society blind in one eye, advancing the wealth of a privileged few over the suffering of an incalculable number of women and children. 

- Marie Merklinger, Stuttgart, Germany
Fiona Broadfoot
"At the tender age of fifteen I was coerced into the brutal world of prostitution, I immediately lost my identity. I liken my day to day life to being on the front lines of a battlefield. I spent the next eleven years shut down and disassociated. I supressed feelings of shame and disgust constantly, by telling myself that this was a job like any other."

At the tender age of fifteen I was coerced into the brutal world of prostitution, I immediately lost my identity. I liken my day to day life to being on the front lines of a battlefield. I spent the next eleven years shut down and disassociated. I supressed feelings of shame and disgust constantly, by telling myself that this was a job like any other. I exited prostitution almost 22 years ago, and I have campaigned for the abolition of the sex trade ever since.

Not just because of the damage I experienced and still experience due to my involvement in this brutal trade, but also for the hundreds of women I have supported over the years, the women who are so damaged they self-medicate with alcohol and other substances, the many women who suffer with chronic health problems that are both mental and physical. Mostly I continue to campaign for the individuals who have been murdered, of which there are many.

- Fiona Broadfoot, Bradford, UK
Marian Hatcher
"It might surprise you, but it can happen to anyone. No you’re not exempt. I wasn’t."

It might surprise you, but it can happen to anyone. No you’re not exempt. I wasn’t. My loving and caring family couldn’t save me from what happened. Only God could. University educated and seventeen years in Corporate America would not prevent the unimaginable from becoming reality.

Domestic Violence crushed my soul, fear and violence made it easy to embrace drugs…unknowingly and unwittingly becoming a zombie, prostitution welcomed me to the streets. Bought and sold became routine, and you want what to keep me safe?

Loss. So much loss, my babies, my children, my parents such a blur. Oh my, the drugs took me back, I am no longer a child, I can’t hide in my youth because becoming an adult began to hurt oh so bad.

God sent Angels with handcuffs to rescue me from the rape, beatings, kidnapping, and sodomy. He sent angels with handcuffs to bring me out the fog. Most importantly the angels with handcuffs delivered me to sanity, honestly for the first time…Sanity.

Truth and obedience to God led me to be a mirror, a reflection of what is inside of us when given as many chances as we need.

Lost no more, found in Jesus

- Marian Hatcher, Chicago, USA
Sabrinna Valisce
"When New Zealand passed full decriminalisation, things changed in unexpected ways and I came to understand that the myths of legal protection, autonomy, increased choice and greater community acceptance were unfounded.. The myth of health being better was proved false in less than 6 months of the law reform. Women were kissing and risking herpes, doing oral sex without condoms with the risk of throat warts, doing rougher and riskier practices just to get the jobs.. I dealt with punters changing expectations. I had no choice but to fight against this model ever spreading to another country."

When New Zealand passed full decriminalisation, things changed in unexpected ways and I came to understand that the myths of legal protection, autonomy, increased choice and greater community acceptance were unfounded. We didn’t have the legal protections we expected because we sat in a grey area between employee and independent contractor. On paper, we were independent contractors but this was only true in terms of not receiving an hourly wage, sick pay, holiday pay, superannuation or any other employee benefits.

We were not considered employees despite brothel owners, escort agency owners and other third party profiteers deciding our starting hours, finishing hours, amount of shifts per/week, pay rates and attire including shoes, hair styles, nail polish and makeup. On top of this the brothels began to charge us to work there and fine us if we didn’t live up to ‘employee’ expectations. Unlike every other independent contractor, we were denied the right to work at multiple businesses.
Pay rates decreased. Fees and fines increased. Shift hours were up to seventeen hours per/night. Shifts had three times as many women as were feasible to make a decent income. Competition grew fierce and safe sex practices became a thing of the past.

The myth of health being better was proved false in less than 6 months of the law reform. Women were kissing and risking herpes, doing oral sex without condoms with the risk of throat warts, doing rougher and riskier practices just to get the jobs. I did doubles with many women and saw these things happening first hand.
I experienced the long hours, nightclub level music, painful heels and increased competition. I dealt with punters changing expectations. I had no choice but to fight against this model ever spreading to another country.

- Sabrinna Valisce, Melbourne, Australia
Rachel Moran
"When I look back now I see that prostitutuion lured and consumed those of us who were already marginalised in society. If you were poor, if you were disadvantaged, if you had come from a broken home or had vulnerabilities connected to prior cycles of abuse, especially sexual abuse, prostitution was there waiting for you. Prostitution is a trap, and it’s not a coincidence that all over the world it ensnares those who are already struggling to survive."

I got into prostitution as a homeless fifteen-year-old girl on the streets of Dublin. I met a young man in his early twenties who thought it would be a good idea if I were made available to men sexually so he could benefit financially. Of course he didn’t put it like that, but that is exactly what happened. Nor did he ever tell me he was my pimp, but that is what he was. I remained in prostitution for seven years, being exploited at all levels: street red-light zones, massage parlours and escort agencies in hundreds of locations across three Irish cities.

None of the women and girls I met in prostitution remotely compared to the 'happy hooker' image that’s peddled relentlessly by those who have a financial stake in misrepresenting the reality of prostitution, earned either off their pimping or off their books, blogs and TV shows. I have seen nothing anywhere that leads me to regard the term ’sex work’ with anything less than the contempt it deserves. I have attended funerals and avoided others, have been assaulted sexually and physically too many times to count and witnessed a relentless wave of female misery, which often expressed itself in alcoholism and narcotic addiction as a direct result of the psychological torment inherent to ritualistic unwanted sex.

When I look back now I see that prostitutuion lured and consumed those of us who were already marginalised in society. If you were poor, if you were disadvantaged, if you had come from a broken home or had vulnerabilities connected to prior cycles of abuse, especially sexual abuse, prostitution was there waiting for you. Prostitution is a trap, and it’s not a coincidence that all over the world it ensnares those who are already struggling to survive.

- Rachel Moran, Dublin, Ireland
Cherie Jimenez
"Many people ask me, how did I get into prostitution, was I “trafficked” or was I a willing participant? What many don’t understand is - however we entered - what the act of prostitution does to us; how it slowly strips us of any semblance of ourselves, as we try to sell part of our bodies, while keeping our soul intact. Prostitution preys on the most vulnerable; it takes us places we never intended to go, all driven by those who feel entitled to pay for our bodies. "

I was introduced into prostitution after an abusive teenage marriage. Needing to support a child with little resources, economic desperation took over and rendered me vulnerable to what eventually became years of exposure to violence and abuse. This was early 1970’s. I started as an escort; the money became the lure. In the beginning I felt like I had two lives, a prostitution life and the straight life, trying to hide it all until it all meshed together and eventually I became fully entrenched in prostitution. I didn’t start off abusing substances, but as years went by I started using heroin to deal with it all, heroin made it all easier.

Eventually, I became a full-fledged heroin addict. As time went by I became more entrenched, until everyone around me was living chaotic, dangerous lives, hustling, drug dealing. I eventually succumbed to a pimp/boyfriend relationship until violence and dysfunction became the norm. Abuse and violence escalated until I finally fled and hid to break away from it all. All total it was almost twenty years lost to a harmful, destructive life.

When I left, I left poorer than I went in, years lost from gaining any education or viable options till we are no longer commercially sellable. It’s often a long journey out for us. Many people ask me, how did I get into prostitution, was I “trafficked” or was I a willing participant? What many don’t understand is - however we entered - what the act of prostitution does to us; how it slowly strips us of any semblance of ourselves, as we try to sell part of our bodies, while keeping our soul intact. Prostitution preys on the most vulnerable; it takes us places we never intended to go, all driven by those who feel entitled to pay for our bodies.

- Cherie Jimenez, Boston, USA

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