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“Scars in my heart”

Aida

Aida
“This is where I want to be.”
Aida

Prostitution doesn’t provide one with any experience or knowledge that might be useful in a job, or in creating a new life for oneself, says Aida.

I don’t really like to reflect on what has happened to me, but it feels good to tell my story from the beginning, and it’s something I’ve never done before. I realize that since I came to Norway some good things have happened to me, but I haven’t gained any experience or knowledge that I could use in a job, or in creating a new life for myself.

When we were growing up, I was the most rebellious child in the family. It was usually my Mama who I quarrelled with. Even though she had a kind husband, an education and a good job, she wasn’t satisfied with her life and she was very unreasonable with us children. If we were playing and having a good time, she would come and ask one of us to do something for her instead. It was as if she didn’t want others to have fun. Dad was much kinder, but he didn’t like quarrels and in a way he withdrew from our daily lives when he became a pensioner. I think he became quite depressed. Where I come from it is normal for parents to beat their children - at least a little. If we broke something, Dad would give us a box on the ear. I love my parents, but we didn’t have a home where you could relax, and we never got praised.

During my school years, I dreamt about getting married and having children and a job and I still have that dream. Most of all I would like to stay here and get an education to become a social worker, as I have seen that here in Norway too, there are people who need help. A higher education isn’t something you take for granted where I come from. Most people in my home town work in a big factory and salaries there have dropped drastically during recent years. Life is hard, and several young people I know had to leave and start working, instead of completing their schooling. To get other and better jobs than in the factory is very difficult if you don’t have connections with the people in power. I was a cleaning woman and a factory worker, but after a while I got fed up with the lousy salary. My dream was to make enough money to move away from home and become independent of my family.

Maria, one of my childhood friends, was in the same situation. We should go to the capital, she said. We would have a lot more opportunities there, and while we looked for work, we could live with someone she knew. So I went with her. In the city we applied for a lot of different jobs, but they were all very badly paid, and far away from where we lived. Then one day we saw a big poster advertising well-paid jobs for young girls, in an agency nearby. There was no mention of what kind of work it was, but we were curious and went there together. It turned out to be an internet agency, where girls posed in front of a camera in daring clothes, and men paid to watch them and talk to them. One of the girls explained how it was done. However, the owner wanted to see us without clothes before he would tell us if we were suitable for the job. It was very embarrassing to undress in front of a strange man, but in the end we both did it, and when we were offered a job, we said yes. Maria was much shyer than me, but as long as the men couldn’t touch her, she thought it would be OK. The pay was much better than in any of the other places we’d been.

After a while, we discovered that a lot of the girls who posed in front of the camera, were actually engaged in prostitution, and several of them used drugs. Maria and I decided that we would never do that. For us the job was a chance to make money and to get to know men. A lot of girls in our country see marriage as a way out of their economical situation, and we thought that way too. There were rumours among the girls in the agency that a rich man had sent a fortune to one of the girls who had worked there, and everyone dreamt that it might happen to them too. We were supposed to be daring and seductive in front of the camera, but I made sure that the men could see that I was also a very caring person. Maria and I stayed there for several months, till we had made enough to rent an apartment of our own.

Illustration: www.colourbox.noIllustration: www.colourbox.no

One day I fell in love with a man I met on an Internet chat site. We talked every day and planned to meet. I knew he wouldn’t like what I was doing, so I found another job, while I was waiting for him to visit me. When we met, I fell even deeper in love with him. He stayed with me for several days and I knew for sure that this was the man for me. We agreed to get married and have children, and my family also liked him. I was very happy. When I visited his home I sensed problems, the minute I met his mother. She made critical comments the whole time, and my boyfriend was clearly used to agreeing with what his mother said. When I got home, he called to tell me it was over. I was so lovesick, that I lost all interest in living and just lay on my bed day after day without eating or talking. It was as if I was dead.

While all of this happened, Maria had gone to Norway, as a man she met on the internet offered her a job. She was supposed to dance and entertain guests in a nightclub. The man also sent her money for her ticket. Just before she was supposed to leave, she realized that the job offer was really prostitution. She was in doubt for a long time about what to do, but in the meantime, one of her sisters was hospitalized, and they had a lot of expenses, so she decided to go. Maria would never have done this in her own country, but it was different to be a prostitute in Norway, she thought. The customers were so much more polite than men at home, she told me. Besides, she didn’t understand what they said, which made things easier. When she heard what bad shape I was in, she asked me to come and join her. I didn’t care about anything anymore and was just relieved to get away.

I fell in love with Norway. It is so clean here and the people are very relaxed and friendly. It looked as if everybody had enough to eat and not even the dogs seemed hungry. It was as if I had woken up again and regained the dreams about what I wanted to do with my life. I fought with myself about starting in prostitution or not, but I didn’t see any other way of making money. Maria and I looked after each other and we had plenty of customers. They were all well behaved, agreed to use condoms, and none of us encountered violent men. It was still hard, and I prayed that the heavenly powers would show me a way out.

Then one day it was all over. Two men in uniform stopped us outside our apartment. They asked for our papers, and wanted to know what we were doing. We had to go with them to the police station, and they asked us all kinds of questions. We told them all about how we ended up in Norway. The police men treated us kindly, but during the night we were locked up in a room without a window. I will never forget it. The third day we got into contact with the Pro Centre. They sent a lawyer who started working for us. The man we knew had been reported to the police by two other women, and we agreed to be witnesses against him in court, when his case came up. We could tell a lot of stories about how he took most of the money we earned, and hit and threatened Maria.

Illustration: www.colourbox.noIllustration: www.colourbox.no

I would very much like to stay here forever and use the possibilities to enable me to get a good job. I will never go back to prostitution again. Prostitution hurts, it isn’t good to use your body that way. I long to have a boyfriend, but I’m afraid of what happens if I meet a Norwegian man I like, and he wonders what I am doing here. In my home country a woman could never shake off the stigma – a whore is a whore forever. I hope it is different here. Maria and I have discussed what we do if the authorities force us to go back. If that happens, Maria has decided to stay there, but I won’t. I will do whatever I can to stay in Norway. If they throw me out, I am determined to come back. This is where I really want to be.

The exhibition

“Scars in my heart” is a web exhibition presenting the life stories of eleven women from around the world, who ended up in prostitution in Norway.

Cand. polit. Rachel Eapen Paul and Unni Rustad, writer, at KILDEN Information Centre for Gender Research in Norway interviewed them after their escape from the traffickers who brought them here. Unni edited the material.

As much as possible, the women’s own words are kept as they were spoken, but details have been changed to protect the women’s identities.  The women read and approved their own story before publication.

Published: 09.12.2008
Kilden
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Illustrations: www.colourbox.no