'I sold sex in four countries – now I help other women escape'
A charity in Sweden that helps women leave the sex industry and trafficking has set up a call girl service – except there’s a twist.
*Content warning: This article contains discussions of rape that some may find triggering*
Unsuspecting men dial the hotline set up by Talita, only to be met with stories from real women recounting how they were trafficked and have been abused on the job.
Josephine Appelqvist, co-founder of Talita, says: ‘We wanted them to hear what their actions have contributed to.
‘The stories, the experiences these women share are horrific, but they need to be listened to.’
Jasmina*, 32, is one of the women that the charity have supported in no longer selling sex. Speaking exclusively to Metro.co.uk, she says it all started when she was just 14.
After losing her father and her mother walking out, she only had her sister, though their relationship was difficult.
At that young age she was raped twice, and when she reported it to the police she was attacked by others from her village.
At first selling sex wasn’t about money – it was simply to escape her life in Romania.
‘It was more about escape and as a 15 year old, alone and without being understood, I needed attention so I got it wherever I could,’ she tells us.
A few years after being denied work at a sex club due to her age – though club owners still toyed with Jasmina by showing her ‘how to touch men’ – she moved to Essex, UK to work as an au pair.
However, that experience drove her back to sex work.
‘My boss sexually assaulted me and I ended up being in the same circles,’ she says.
‘I froze and I thought I had to please him. I would feel ashamed but I couldn’t say no… I thought this was what I was meant for. I had to please men.
‘If you lose your sense of worth it’s hard to see something valuable in yourself.’
She then moved to Austria and a friend helped her get a job at a massage parlour – though she didn’t know it was actually a brothel. At first, she was struck by how seemingly empowered the other prostitutes were in their situations.
‘Some of them had been in the industry for such a long time and all of them had a pimp at some point,’ Jasmina says.
But Jasmina explained they’d escape pimps only to be sold again. ‘Prostitution breaks you down, it’s so hard to leave that cycle.
‘When I saw the girls they seemed strong and happy and I really liked that. I always thought I was the problem and that I was there to please everyone but I could not please myself at all. When I saw them, how strong they were, I wanted to be like that.’
In hindsight, she believes they were just surviving.
Eventually she left and briefly worked in Dubai, but her female pimp didn’t think she worked hard enough, so she moved to Sweden.
There, she found a new pimp who manipulated her into thinking that ‘kind’ gestures were done to protect her, when really it was a matter of control.
‘They tried to control me, but nicely,’ offering food and chaperoning,’ she explains. ‘They were extremely nice and I felt like a princess.’
Things turned around in 2015 when a client told her he was abusing his own daughter. She reported him to the police and he was arrested. The officers she dealt with told her to go to Talita and join their recovery programme.
It meant coming off of drink and drugs and no longer selling sex, which at first wasn’t easy.
Jasmina ‘had to decide’ between the programme and the world that she knew. Choosing to start over, she says it ‘completely changed my life’.
Jasmina doesn’t like to think of her past as being sex work, preferring instead to call it prostitution or selling sex, as ‘giving your body away to others, lending your body to others… I don’t see any “work” in that.’
The student has been working with Talita since 2020 in outreach, to try to help other women with similar stories to her own, though she admits it’s not easy – sometimes the help isn’t welcome. They often get ‘too emotional’ then back off.
‘They don’t see the cycle [of selling sex] because they’re so deep into that situation,’ she tells us.
‘I didn’t trust anyone and I was always expecting to be let down,’ she remembers. Utimately, the charity’s kindness gave her ‘hope’ when they first made contact.
As for the future, once she finishes her course she’s thinking of going back to Romania. She says she’s experiencing a ‘shift’ and is ready for change.
In the mean time, she’ll keep working with Talita to help other women.
*Name has been changed to protect the person’s identity.
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
Source: Read Full Article