Trigger warning: sexual abuse, sexual content.
He asked her to go to the bathroom on him, and vomit on him, but she couldn’t do it (she tried).
He was 26, and she was there for his pleasure, but she got scared when she saw blood on a pillow in the room they were in so she decided to leave. Safety first. She didn’t get paid, even though he got off at least once, she couldn’t perform the other acts. She paid for a taxi and got out of there.
Meet O (that’s what we’ll call her). O is a “free lancer”, offering her body for service. She is on her own. No pimp or brothel, just the street and her willingness to do this work in order to pay off her husbands debts. Her husband, who is a “bad man, only thing he hasn’t done is kill someone.” Her husband who won’t grant her a divorce. Her husband and his parents who keep her 7 year old from her because of her work, even though she does the work because she owes six banks on account of him.
She tried working at “company” but couldn’t make what she needed. She’s 33.
“What was your dream when you were a little girl?” We ask. “To have a perfect marriage.”
Now she spends her nights trying to convince men to wear condoms when she gives blow jobs because she doesn’t feel safe, but they refuse.
Her hair is long and black, her nails are perfectly manicured. She doesn’t wear makeup. She says, “I don’t look smart, but I’m smart.”
“I throw my dignity away so I can pay off my debts and then get out of this work. People insult me, look down on me. I like being around my friends who do this work too because they don’t insult me.”
We ask her when she will be able to get her daughter back. She says, “When the grandparents die.” She has no rights.
She a free lancer. She is un-dignified to those around her.
“What are you dreams now?”
“Not to be in perfect marriage, but to depend on myself.” She is proud of this, that she can provide for herself. Oh, and also take care of her mother. She does that too.
I think of Fantine from Les Misérables and the words of the famous song, I Dreamed a Dream:
There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame…
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.
We ask her if she wants her daughter doing this work and she says emphatically, “Absolutely no.”
This isn’t a job you want, it’s a job you do. For her, it’s to pay off debt and care for her mother, for others it’s to eat. She tells us the prices are going down on the streets for the work she offers because some women are so desperate to eat that they give themselves for cheap. This lowers prices all around. “Customers are smart.”
I want to hold her hands and tell her, “It’s all going to be okay. You don’t have to do this. Let me help you.” But I can’t do that because I can’t help, not really, and I don’t know if things will be okay. I don’t know if she’ll ever get out of this work. I don’t know what will happen to her.
She says she hasn’t had work in three or four days, so this was good, “to tell my story.” We are paying her for an hour to sit with us. The hour goes quick and I just want to keep her.
She has dignity. She is not lower because of her work. She is doing her best.
I look at her in the eyes and I tell her, “You are dignified. You are not low. You are beautiful.”
She hugs us all.
And she goes back to work.
The Exodus Road needs monthly partners to keep on in this really awful, deeply good work. Will you help? For $35 a month you can fund an investigation that will help free girls from sex slavery. Learn more HERE.
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