Thank you for inviting me here today. I’m happy to be able to represent Space International, and the new Danish network for survivors in Denmark. As you may know, Space International represents 6 countries and 5 states in the US.
In Denmark the Network for survivors was launched on the 18th of November last month. We are already 12 members, and only 4 of us have been out public before. That means that 8 women finally had a place to go, to share their stories. I know that this network will grow bigger.
And so will Space International, because there are so many women, living with the secret, with the shame and with the consequences from a life in prostitution.
But as you see, survivors are finally organizing. We are making movements, because we won’t tolerate to be silenced anymore. To go out there alone, is hard. You are being threatened, humiliated and victimized. You are being called weak, a liar and lots of words I won’t say here today, but it get’s personal, and it frightens you.
To be in prostitution affects you physically and mentally, but going out public affects you socially. But fighting together is healing. The healing lies in the understanding and the support from women who believe you, because they have been there themselves.
The threat, the humiliation the blaming and the victimization doesn’t harm us the same way when we stand together, because it’s not personal anymore. When they attack a movement, they attack an army, and we are ready to fight the commercialization of women and women’s sexuality.
In Denmark, 29 people were identified as victims of sex trafficking in the first 6 months of this year. If we have the same amount, in the last 6 months of 2014, that will be 58 people in just one year, in just one country, in fact, a very small country. And this is just the people they have identified. And still none of the politicians in Denmark can see the link between prostitution and sex trafficking.
Some people say that it’s good that people can prostitute themselves because it can be their way out of poverty. Other people say that prostitution is sexwork, and that it is only the weak that can’t handle it. When I think back on my experiences from prostitution, I would rather be poor, than suicidal, depressive and have anxiety. I know, that I haven’t experienced being as poor as the Nigerian women in the streets in Denmark. But the question is: how do we fight poverty, because no women should be in a position where the only way to feed her children, is to move away from them, and sell sexual services.
In Denmark prostitution is defined as a social problem. The government has put aside 64 million D.kr. to find out how to help people who wish to leave prostitution. That is around 8 and a half million euros. Can you point out any other occupations, where you need to set aside 8 ½ million euros for exit-programs?
For me, it doesn’t make any sense, that you do this, unless you combine it with a law that reduces the demand. It seems that the patriarchy is still alive and ruling. We would rather spend millions on exit-programs to make sure, that men still have the right to buy women. In addition, when men have the law on their side, we try to clean up the mess the buyers do, when they violate women in prostitution, by making exit-programs.
If we truly want to help women out of prostitution, if we truly want to fight trafficking, we should all criminalize the buyers. – Because they are the demanders, they are the reason why people are being trafficked.
Evaluations from Norway and Sweden show that the law works. It doesn’t mean that these countries have fought prostitution in general, but it means that they are working on it, and that they protect women by saying that what these men do, when they buy women for sexual pleasure is not okay. And that gives me hope. Hope for the prostituted, hope for the trafficked, and hope for women in general.
People talk about prostitution as work. But I would really like to tell you what prostitution was for me.
I was 20 years old. I made a choice. I called a brothel, a fine brothel in Copenhagen. I was what some people call, a high-class prostitute. I was working 2 days a week in 6 hours shifts. Sometimes I went to a brothel in another city and worked there for 12 hours. Sometimes I went out on an escort. I didn’t have a pimp, and I didn’t owe money to anyone, when I began in prostitution. I just chose to do it to make some fast money, and because society had already taught me, that I was a sexual object. I chose to do it. I had a lot of money. I felt quite happy for a long period.
When I began in prostitution, I had a social life, a boyfriend and a family. I was not doing drugs and I wasn’t depressed or anything else.
When I stopped 3 years later, I was doing cocaine. That was the only way to ignore the harm from prostitution. I didn’t have a social life, because I had a depression, I had anxiety and I had suicidal thoughts. I didn’t have a boyfriend, because it was too hard for him to see how I treated myself. I had pushed my family away, because I was ashamed. And I certainly didn’t have any money.
While I was in prostitution, I got raped, and violated in so many ways, physically, psychologically and sexually. A man tried to strangle me, another man followed me to where I lived, a taxi driver molested me, because he knew where I was going. A man tried to burn down a brothel while I was still inside.
Most of the men tried to cross my boundaries, doing things they weren’t allowed to: spitting on me, biting me, trying to pull of the condom, pinning me tightly down, and were so rough while they were inside of me. They pulled my hair, and they did things, which I don’t know if I ever could explain in a way to make you understand the psychological terror I felt.
For instance, when they were about to give me the money, and I would reach out my hand to take i they would let go of them, so the money fell down on the floor and I would have to scramble on the floor to pick them up.
I was called things, words; I wouldn’t even form on my own lips. When I gave a blowjob, I learned to keep my hand on the root of the penis, because I had experienced too many times, buyer’s who would suddenly push my head down on them, so I couldn’t breathe.
You learned how to keep your legs in a certain position, so that they weren’t able to push themselves deeply inside of you, because they would do this on purpose, to make it hurt.
And still, I think of myself as privileged, because I know, that other people in prostitution don’t have the strength or the possibility to get out. – People who are violated right now, this second, all around the world. And here we are, discussing prostitution; discussing, whether union rights will be better for prostituted people, discussing, how to protect the prostituted person. There is only one way to protect them, and that is to put the responsibility back on the buyers and criminalize them.