Around the world around 46 million people are trapped in some form of slavery – the equivalent to the entire population of Spain. Sexual exploitation counts for 54% of all human trafficking victims.
As Rebecca Mott’s astonishingly candid story reveals, slavery is actually very close to home. And we can all make a difference to end it.
“For me slavery means when you are doing something against your will – where somebody is controlling you, exploiting you for their gain. You gradually start losing your rights as a human being, your very humanity. Prostitution involves all that. Most prostitution is about mentally breaking someone down until they become an object rather than a person, using violence and the threat of it as a control.
And it happens everywhere. In my case it started in Cambridge when I was aged 14.
I was prostituted from 14 until I was 27.
I got out because I chose to live.
The guy I was with was very violent and I ended up in hospital. I remember the nurse yelled at me for being a prostitute. She sewed me up without anaesthesia and I left the hospital. I was paralysed for three days.
Those three days made me think. I decided to catch a train and leave without knowing where I was going. I was in prostitution on and off for three years after that.
But that was the beginning of my exit.
I was abused by a family member from the age of six. I told my mother but she didn’t care.
She was just concerned about me not getting pregnant.
There was a club in our town where if you were a girl and under 16, the bouncers would let you in for free at the end of the night. My friend, who, like me, was completely fucked up and hated the world, took me there. It was strange because we were told to sit at the bar, not talk to each other and were given lots of cocktails.
It all felt very sophisticated. I was 14.
On that first night some men took me to a flat and gang raped me for 6 hours.
There was a queue of men outside the door; one would finish and another would come in. Now, when I look back, it feels like it was a test to see if I would be a good prostitute.
I don’t know how I made it out alive.
Although I didn’t go back immediately, I did return with my friend because I didn’t care about myself. She would take the money while I had sex with often violent men. I ‘worked’ there for 3 years.
I could hear what was happening in other rooms and would think, at least what’s happening to me isn’t as bad.
You have to survive. If I saw someone else looking scared, I’d think at least that’s not me. It’s hard for me to live with the fact that I know some women disappeared—I feel guilty.
It was self hatred that kept me going back, that and not not wanting to go home because of the abuse I had suffered in my family. I felt at the time that’s all I deserved.
Sexual abuse from home grooms you because you associate giving sex to men with something you can do very early on in your life. It becomes who you are. For me especially as I was abused from such a young age. I didn’t know I was anything else apart from a sexual object. I was groomed into thinking that was all I was worth.
The guy who ran the club was grooming me. In subtle ways he made me feel like I was special. He knew I was unhappy. He became like a boyfriend.
You get a lot of love bombing in the sex trade – especially with teenage girls when they come from a background where they are not loved. They make you feel loved as they want you to go with as many men as possible and persuade you that when it is violent it is an accident. They gradually make you do worse and worse stuff and by the time you realise how bad it is, you feel that it’s all I’m worth.
They made me feel love yet trapped.
There was a regular at a local pub who was known to be violent to women and to pick up prostitutes. I used to be seen with him in the pub, but no-one ever said anything to me. I’m not saying they could have stopped it, but they didn’t even try.
Loads of men who were abusive to me were white and English, but there were also men from other nationalities and countries.
It was the time of the anti-apartheid movement. Outwardly these men portrayed themselves as so good. Some would actually talk to me about human rights while they were doing horrible things to me.
They didn’t see me as a human being.
One punter – the term used to call them – actually resuscitated me and then carried on doing what he was doing to me.
I was getting to the point where I wanted to kill the punters or myself. I was surrounded by people who I felt wanted to kill me. Men tried to strangle me and did things so violent that my body couldn’t handle it. It made me think I should commit suicide as that would piss them off!
I would see injuries on me after punters had used me and not know where they’d come from.
I mentally closed down. My body had been pushed to the limit but it didn’t die. At the time I thought I was choosing punters, but now I realise that men knew they could offer me money and that they could be violent towards me; it was a small town and they knew. Now when I look back, I see that there was a hell of a lot of organisation behind what happened to me.
I had to run away because i was scared of dying.
For a very long time I hated going to the cinema as normally punters would take me there to have sex. When men found out I read, some would buy me books like Lolita and Marquis de Sade. I once set fire to a copy of Lolita. My abuser used to read Marquis de Sade to me at bedtime.
I also did that escort “girlfriend” thing, which is a total mind fuck because even if they treat you well, they still get all the sex they want any way they want. Many wanted to see me regularly.
One guy kept me in his flat for eight days.
That messed with my head because I would start thinking like he was my boyfriend, when he wasn’t. He would lock me up in the flat before he’d go out.
We’d watch American football on TV. If he saw me looking bored he’d rape me. At least men who are cold and violent don’t fuck with your brain!
As an escort most of the guys who bought me were very rich – many were studying in Cambridge to join a position of power in the UK and in their own countries. People disconnect prostitution from other human rights abuses. It makes me cynical about governments and those that run them.
Punters are so arrogant. If you’re going to be a bastard, it’s easier to stick to prostituted women because no one really listens to or believes prostitutes. One reason men are angry with prostitutes is because they can’t destroy them.
Most men don’t want to use condoms- they don’t come to prostitutes for that. If someone had given me a condom I wouldn’t have had the self-esteem to use one.
I didn’t feel like I deserved to live or not get a disease. I look back at the escorting and think those punters really hated me.
A lot of men were in denial about what they were doing so they would pay me with food or alcohol or give me a bed for the night. The guys who thought they were gentle or talked a lot, I hated the most. They wanted to know things about me as a human being, while they wanted to do all these things to me.
I hate the punters and the way they make so many excuses for what they do. I hate that what they do is justified by society.
I don’t know how any man can justify buying a human being either, just so they can have an orgasm!
I hate that they made me feel I should be grateful to them. I feel like they put poison in me.
I started a blog just after the 2006 Ipswich murders (I’ve always noticed they only report these things when it’s a serial killer and then it’s always about the guy not the women). I had escaped to Manchester. But I got lots of backlash from people who talk about prostitution being a choice and people who say I couldn’t have been a prostitute because I’m middle-class or too educated.
Within a month, however, I started getting a strong response and now I use it to be political and to talk about the trauma associated with prostitution. I also contribute to Sex Trafficking Survivors United online forum. I campaign for abolition and changing laws.
To be prostituted is to know you are going to be raped and there is no justification you can make for that. – And it’s a form of slavery – you lose your humanity you become goods rather than a human being. And as my story shows, it happens everywhere.
But there is a solution. It’s called the Nordic model, because is started in Scandinavia. It’s been adopted in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, France, Ireland and Canada.
Northern Ireland is the first part for the UK to adopt it.
It’s where the prostituted people are decriminalised because it is recognised that they are the victims and being exploited rather than criminals. The punters and the profiteers are criminalised. And very importantly, theere are longterm exiting programmes to help prostituted people longterm. – Especially with specialised counselling.
Many governments have committed to ending sex trafficking – hold them accountable and please: join the campaign so my story does not keep getting repeated. “
By Rebecca Mott
Rebecca Mott is working with Equality Now. To find out more about what you can do their campaign to help end sex trafficking visit Equality Now.