My name is Jaime. At 15, I left home due to the abuse going on there and I became a homeless runaway living on the streets of Melbourne, Australia…
Within days I met apparently friendly older men around the age of 20 or so, who offered me a hotel room to stay in if I helped them sell newspapers on the corner. At the time I thought they were being kind. It was soon made very evident that there was an extra price for this roof over my head. There began a steady stream of strangers coming to my room and expecting all kinds of sex from me. It was a tiny room with just a single bed and a bedside table. I was not allowed to leave it for any reason other than to use the bathroom down the hall.
All I can really recall from those days are the smell of bad breath, body odour and fresh cum as the faces and ages of these men all intermingle in my nightmares. I cannot even tell you how long I was trapped in that hotel, as each day and night blurred into the next.
I remember the pain of having cocks shoved in any hole they could and as hard as they could until they would grunt when they were done using my body. It didn’t matter to them if I was bleeding or trying to stifle cries of pain. In some cases, it seemed to turn them on more. So I learned to hide the tears and plaster a smile on my face and just let them get it over with as quickly as possible. One thing that remains with me is that not one of them spoke English. There was never a question of my age despite my baby-looking face and an obviously childlike body.
One night I was bundled in a car and driven to a house just outside the CBD. I was instructed to stay with the man at that house. It was made clear to me that I was expected to have sex with him. The fact he spoke English and had a lovely looking home made it seem not so bad compared to where I had been. I lied and gave him a false name and said I was 17, almost 18.
A couple of days later, he drove me back to the city hotel so I could gather the clothes and things I’d left behind. It was empty and I had nothing left to my name but the clothes on my back. So I accepted his offer to stay with him as it seemed like a better option than trying to survive on the streets.
I tried to live a normal life of getting a job at Coles and leaving my past behind. One day, my lies about my age and name caught up with me and I was put back into the government foster care system as a ward of the state. I was put in a home with much older residents and was again raped and abused, so my sense of worth was zero. I felt it was all I deserved.
At 16, I was allowed to move out of the system and back to the “home life” I knew. That is where I really began joining in with the full-on drugs, alcohol and porn/sex trade scene. Surrounded by adults who, for them, it was normal, by 17, I was stripping and nude modelling and quickly became addicted to the money. My face and my body were the only assets I had to sell.
Not long after my 18th birthday I began work for an insurance company. Another attempt at a normal life. I was subjected to sleazy bosses and customers who didn’t want the insurance I was selling. They wanted my mouth, my tits and what was between my legs.
Months went by and suddenly the homicide squad from Sydney NSW were knocking on my door. They were unsure if I was dead or alive as they had photos of me on the same roll of film as a young woman who had gone missing from the streets of St Kilda and was presumed murdered. It turned out she had been kidnapped, drugged, tortured and photographed naked and then killed by a man, who had come to the studio I worked at months earlier.
To this day I’m grateful I said no to his offer of more money to leave the studio to go to the beach with him for further photos – or my story would have ended there. Except as a google search for murdered sex workers in Australia.
Because of my lack of confidence that I could do anything else, I spent months stripping around the pubs and clubs of Melbourne. Private gigs were always the worst as there were more expectations of the acts we were asked to perform. Live sex acts with bucks party men. Lesbian acts were expected, condoms were not. Drugs and alcohol were a standard part of my life.
I was lying to family and old friends as to what I really did for work. Most of the friends I had at the time were also in the industry as meeting normal girls or boys my age was impossible. I moved in very different circles, filled with predatory men.
By 21, I was a single mother struggling to pay my rent. One morning, after dropping my child off at day care where I knew they would care for my child better than I could at the time, I came home in tears and picked up the paper and looked for a job. Every one of them wanted qualifications and an education level I didn’t have.
I then saw an ad for massage girls. Due to my past experiences of nude modelling and stripping, I knew what the ad meant. They were offering an immediate start. So, with my pride pushed aside, I called and arranged to go to a legal brothel in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
My idea of legal brothel work was a nice clean place, nice men who would pay good money to have sex with me, and a safe working environment because it was all legal, right? I’d been having sex with men I didn’t like for years so why not get paid for it in a legitimate business?
A friendly lady met me and took me inside and showed me around the nice-looking spa rooms and explained I could earn a lot of money being a fresh face and so pretty. At $80-90 an hour, I thought how hard could it be? I had arrived just before lunch time and was told I could start immediately as they were expecting to be busy.
I quickly learned that there was such a thing as a 15-minute booking for $50 cost to the punter – of which I received $25. There was no nice spa room for that. Instead, I was put in a tiny little room with a huge two-way mirror. My first john was a scrawny elderly man who, as a regular, was given first choice of me being fresh meat. Reeking of garlic, and with very long fingernails, he demanded I get naked and get on my knees to suck his dick. His nails dug into my head as he fucked my face and I tried not to gag at the smell of him. It was over within five minutes and he left me to clean up.
For the next two hours, I was in and out of that room faster than a swinging saloon door as men on their lunch break came in to get their rocks off as fast as they could. Sucking and fucking till I was feeling dizzy and sore. The other girls assured me it was normal for the lunch time rush and I would get used to it in a day or two and don’t forget to use as much lube as I needed.
As I walked out of there with just over a couple of hundred dollars cash, I said I’d be back tomorrow. I had two weeks rent in my pocket and I could feed my child that night. That first week I went home with enough to take my child shopping for winter clothes and shoes. I filled my fridge and pantry and, for the first time, I was a month ahead in rent and my bills were paid on time. I had a new addiction. Money of my own.
I bought new clothes, lingerie, gowns, shoes, make up and jewellery to make sure I was the prettiest girl on shift so I would earn the most money. I also bought lots of alcohol and weed to numb myself after work. I was given a work name – so I became her and she became me and we were strong empowered women earning our own money in a legitimate business, not relying on a man to pay our bills or way through life… From legal brothels to escort services, I was doing it all, except where it was illegal: on the streets.
Meanwhile the rest of my life was falling apart. I had sex with old men. Ugly men. Savage men, who would pin me down and grind their hips into my thighs till I felt like they would dislocate. Drunk men who would get angry and demand a refund because they couldn’t cum after an hour of sucking and fucking. Entitled men who felt they had paid for the right to use my body in any way shape or form they wanted to. Perverted men who paid me more to wear a school girl uniform and call them daddy. Strange men who paid extra for me to fuck them anally with large dildos while they masturbated. Bastard men who only wanted it doggy style so they could attempt to slip the condom off. Men coming straight from a factory job covered in grease and dirt with filthy hands and nails wanting to shove as many dirty fingers into my vagina as they could. Men who were offended when I told them I needed to perform a visual STD check for crabs or herpes before the booking could go ahead. Men who were even more offended when I refused to service them due to suspicious looking critters or lesions on their dicks and told them they could return when they could supply a doctor’s certificate.
I was booked to go to men’s homes, workplaces or wherever they were. My driver I hear you ask? Surely, I was safe with a driver waiting outside? More often than not, I drove myself as the escort company’s one driver can’t drive six women to different parts of the city or suburbs all booked at different times or lengths of booking.
So off I went. Never knowing if tonight was going to be my last night alive if I displeased the john with no-one to intervene. Would my child be left growing up to discover Mum was a dead prostitute? I learned how to negotiate enough to get myself out of some pretty scary situations with johns who were drunk or high. I guess that’s one good life skill. What I use it for these days is not much, but hey, at the time, I was an expert…
Especially with the guy high on crack who was holding a large Crocodile Dundee size knife when I came back from doing a safety check of the hotel bathroom. Thankfully, he was only using it to cut the TV cord for the copper in it. But I swear in that moment, I thought I was dead and I prayed…. To Everything… Then I spent three hours fucking him so I could walk out without further incident as the image of that knife constantly flashed before me.
Every month I went to my doctor for STD tests to prove to my bosses I was fit for work, and every three months, a blood test to hopefully prove I had not contracted HIV from a john. The anxious wait for the all clear still sits in the hallowed hell of my memory bank.
I was in and out of legalised prostitution from the ages of 21 to 32. Do you know that the only kind of promotion I got in all those years was to go from the rooms to behind the counter, helping to sell other women like myself. I hate myself for that. To me, I was no better than the pimps and thugs who trade in women and children for profit. But it was all I knew and there was no real tangible support to help me turn my life around.
There was so much shame and fear associated with coming forward even to a GP, because they all seemed to think it was my choice to work as a prostitute. In some ways, it was the only choice. I knew nobody wanted to employ a woman who puts “sex worker” on their resume to fill in the 11-year gap in their working life when they attempt to reclaim some semblance of a “normal life”.
Almost none of the helping professionals I have seen over years of therapy has ever asked how this job has affected me. Even today after all these years. Instead, they try and diagnose me with borderline personality disorders or schizophrenia or bipolar and put me on medication – which never worked, by the way. If anything, they made things much worse as I was bounced from one medication to another as doctors tried to squeeze me in a neat box and tick me off as cured.
Only one got it right – in 2004. I live with Complex Post Traumatic Stress (C-PTSD) and Dissociative Identity Disorder, and chronic lifelong back injuries, and vagina and rectal trauma. I’m not crazy. I’m not mental. My name is Jaime and I am the hidden result of the real horror behind the closed red doors of the sex trade industry here in Australia.
It is my lived experience that gives me the right to say that sex work is not a job like any other job and nor should it ever be seen as such. The deaths and long term mental and physical illnesses caused by this industry are ever growing and uncountable in monetary terms for society as a whole.
There is a minute percentage of people who may come out unscathed from their time in it, but I’m here to tell you an unpopular truth: I’ve personally met well over a hundred women over the years who will never have a normal life again. Beaten, bashed, raped, killed – and that’s just me.
I can’t help but think of the thousands of stories women tell each other every day as they wait in some dingy waiting room hoping to pay their rent, bills, school fees, etc. And I haven’t even started on interviewing the men/boys/trans people who have similar life stories to mine.
I don’t even know how to try and get a “normal job” – because I’ve tried – only to have to deal with men who trigger all my old memories with their sexist misogynistic views on women, their “boys will be boys” attitudes, and their locker room jokes.
After over 20 years of quietening my voice, hiding my life in shame and being frightened that no one would believe how damaging this was to me and the loved ones around me, thanks to the love, support and empathy shown towards me/us from wahinetoarising.nz founder, Ally Marie, I now feel safe and have the courage to speak out publicly.
Decriminalizing prostitution in countries that I know, like Australia and New Zealand, has sent the message that it’s OK to buy and sell people like pieces of meat at market.
My observations of it since leaving 20 years ago, is that it’s caused an explosion in men or women with large amounts of money, mostly obtained through illegal activities, to invest in the creation and building of more brothels to fill the demand of men who want the freedom to abuse and commit violence towards people. I’m saying people as a whole because it’s not only women who are caught in the sex trade.
They target the most vulnerable ones in our societies and exploit them for profit that fills their wallets and, I promise you, the tax man barely sees a cent from them due to the front cover businesses they run at a loss.
Our elected officials are tasked with a duty of care towards the population they represent and to work in the best interests of a happy and healthy society. But they are allowing the sex slave industry to flourish unchecked. This beggars belief to someone like me and others I speak to.
The cost to the people is not something I, nor anyone, can put a monetary figure on. It’s not possible to count the consequences for the health system in trying to save innumerable lives that are destroyed by prostitution one day after another.
As I stand here today, I implore you to look within your hearts and ask yourself, is this what you would want for your family, children and grandchildren?
To be lied to, tricked, coerced, sold, kidnapped and trafficked to strangers, numerous times a day. To be abused, raped, develop substance abuse issues, be beaten or at worst murdered, by a society that accepts this as a risk of the job that is deemed legal despite overwhelming evidence of the long-term negative ramifications.
Would you feed your family asbestos? Would you advise they take up cigarettes or drink DDT? No. Why not? Because time eventually proved the sickness and death tolls are too high.
In closing, I also ask which side of history will you want to be known for standing on? The one that ultimately destroys humanity or with the ones who did whatever they could to save it. I know where I’ll be. For I was once taught, that if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.
Thank you for your time. I pray you choose right from wrong.
Taken from Nordic Model Now - Prostitution Survivor Testimony at nordicmodelnow.org