At some point in our lives most of us have been involved in an activity, relationship or situation that was not good for us. For some that thing may have passed and we moved on and got on with our lives but for some that thing may have been toxic.
If you have ever been in a toxic relationship the chances are you experienced a period of being ‘intoxicated’ by it to begin with. It’s like your senses are dulled to anything that would tell you to walk away often because it meets a need at the time. Domestic abusers often seek out a partner who has a level of insecurity. They begin meeting that need by being charming and showering the other person with attention on a level that they have never experienced. Being attentive and allowing them to believe that everything they ever needed to be happy is with them. Once they are hooked in to the relationship the abuser builds a wall around them, inside just them, outside is everyone else.
The abuser will lead them to believe that it is for the protection of their relationship that everyone else is kept at a distance but in truth it is only for the abuser’s benefit. It is to ensure complete control and influence over the victim without anyone else interfering. Inside that wall a world is created that those on the outside know nothing about.
Everything must look normal and happy, any bruises explained away, the world inside the wall protected at all costs. Domestic abuse is like a form of brainwashing. It systematically breaks down the victim’s identity, making them believe exactly what the abuser wants them to think. The abuser has worked hard to earn their trust at the beginning and knows that the victim will believe what they say “you are stupid” “you are useless” “you will never find anyone who will love you” “You can’t leave me” etc.
Why am I writing about domestic violence on a prostitution survivors blog, you might wonder?
I have been in an abusive relationship. He was like a live volcano that could erupt at any time over anything and I thought it was my fault if he did. I experienced how hard it is to leave an abusive relationship. Firstly, because it took time for me to initially realise that it was an abusive relationship. Secondly because I had come to believe that I was the one who was ‘not right in the head’ so leaving him would leave me with nothing and no one. After all who else would have a fruitcake like me? (His words)
Looking back and reflecting on my time in the sex industry I can see the same toxic pattern in my relationship with prostitution.
Being first intoxicated by the sense of control and the ability to make money, my senses seemingly dulled to anything that would tell me to walk away. Having my practical needs met by my pimp which gave me a feeling of being taken care of not realising his motive was control not care. Hiding what I was doing from most of the people I cared about. Defending my pimp and my lifestyle despite the effects on my health physically and mentally. Denying my increased drug and alcohol use. Denying that I felt any shame or sadness over my choices. I also felt like there was nothing for me outside of prostitution. No opportunities for someone like me who had mental health issues, no education, no qualifications. I couldn’t seem to hold on to anything good so this was the best I could do in my life. Prostitution’s voice sounded very similar to the voice of the abuser saying “no one else will ever want you” “if you leave me you will have nothing”.
Over the years our society has come to realise that victims of domestic violence often need considerable support to leave an abusive relationship and rebuild their lives.
Women who are involved in prostitution face a very similar trap to those affected by Domestic violence. Many have been manipulated, isolated and abused and many in our society see it simply as their fault and so they MUST lay in the bed they have made for themselves. This was how women in abusive relationships were once viewed, we now know better.
As a former prostitute, I now believe that prostitution, is in itself a form of violence against women. I dream of a world where we stand up and protect every woman, supporting them to make choices free from abuse and manipulation. Free from the necessity to sell themselves and free to leave any situation or relationship that is now harmful, regardless of how it began. I hope for more for every woman.
It’s time to break up with prostitution!