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“Scars in my heart”

Anne

Anne
“All the terrible things that happened are my fault.”
Anne

Anne thought that her nightmare was over. She was totally unprepared for the meeting with the well respected lawyers in court.

When you live in hell you concentrate about one thing – to survive each day. When you are out of hell and see it from a distance that is when you break down. Everything you have tried not to think about, all the feelings you have kept at bay, every little thing that reminds you of it, brings it all back. On bad days I smoke a lot and walk back and forth in my room. All the terrible things that happened are my fault.

The worst part is what I did to my mother. She worked so hard to bring food to the table for her family. My father did nothing but drink, he totally lost it when the factory closed down and his job disappeared. Sometimes he beat us all up. I did not have to keep it a secret; this was normal where I grew up. In school our teacher had a little room where you could sit in peace and quiet if you needed to. I had a lot of friends, we trusted each other, and talked openly about our lives. I was another person back then.
 
My mother wanted me to have an education, so I started at vocational school. There were big differences between the students there. The ones with money used every opportunity to show off their wealth. I got into trouble with one of the richest girls and was expelled. My mother was devastated and I was too when I saw what it did to her. My home situation was intolerable. While all of this was going on, a good friend of mine committed suicide. It was like the whole world went off its hinges. On top of it all our animals got sick and died, and we lost our only opportunity to produce milk and cheese.

I wanted so much to do something to help my mother. I wanted her to be proud of me, to make right some of the wrongs. When a friend said she wanted to go to the capital to find work, I thought this was the chance I had been waiting for. A girl she knew had been there for several months and came back with clothes and money, she said. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, life is never easy, but I never imagined it could turn out like this….

In the city, we went around gawking at everything. The buildings, the streets there, we had never seen anything so impressive. We didn’t know anybody, and were so happy when a nice man said he knew of a cheap place to live. He also said he would check out possibilities for work. We lived in the room he showed us for several days. Sometimes he brought us food and he seemed genuinely concerned about what would happen to us.

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

One day he told us there were jobs in a neighbouring country where he had lived for many years. I knew some very nice people from there, and said yes at once. My friend and I took the train to a small village near the border. We were picked up by a car with two men who were supposed to take us further. One of them had ugly eyes and looked mean, he gave me the chills from the start. We did not speak each other’s languages, but we understood what the other guy said about the man with the eyes being like our father’s. We were to do everything he told us to do. It got dark while we drove through a forest. We were driving alongside a river for a long time and the men joked about drowning us. My friend and I looked at each other and became more and more frightened.

Deep inside the woods we came to a house with a fence around it. We went in, and the men started heating up a sauna. We were handed a bowl of water and told to go outside and wash ourselves, we were so dirty, they said. It was cold and we stood naked in the dark night. When we came inside, they told us that if we did not do what they told us, it would have serious consequences for our families. They knew where we came from. I do not have to explain all the details about what happened. They raped us in many different ways. They forced my friend and me to have sex in front of them. The one with the evil eyes said that we were too dirty for anything except sucking him and being taken from behind. We were told to smile. They were satisfied when we screamed. We were terrified and it hurt so much. Once I threw up. The next day we were taken to a hair dresser and a photographer. Then they got another girl and more men and everything started all over again. “Smile, or else things will get much worse”, we told the girl.

My friend and I were taken to a town where we were going to live in a small room with an old couch, a TV and cockroaches everywhere. We got food every day most of the time, but not always. Gangs of men would come at any time to demand sex. They drank, raped us, fought and yelled at us. Everything happened in that room with everybody present. We had problems sleeping, could never relax. We had a shower, but were unable to wash our clothes or bedclothes, we never changed in all the weeks we were there. It did not seem like the men cared, not as long as we smiled and did what they wanted us to do.

One day we were told to dance. My friend just walked around in circles on the floor, humming in a strange way. Usually we did everything in order to avoid being beaten, but when the men started kicking and hitting her, she did not react. I realized that she had given up. The men hit her in the face and all over her body, but she was totally gone. When I was sent to Norway some time later, she couldn’t come, she was so destroyed, they couldn’t use her any more. I had to make up for the money she should have brought in, they told me. Later I heard she had managed to go home. There she told everything to a friend who did not keep his mouth shut, and everybody in the village got to hear her story. When my friend went out, unknown people spat at her. She left and found a congregation who let her help them keep order and arrange the candles they used in their prayer room. It was the belief in a god that saved her, she says. She is doing OK now.

Thanks to the old TV I did not go crazy. As often as I could, I watched one of the cartoon channels. I forgot everything around me and imagined that I was in the stories I was watching.

It seemed we were in that apartment for an eternity, but in reality it was no more than two months. Then a man came to pick me up. I was taken to his apartment. He talked to me as a human being, he cooked for me and asked me where I was from. When we were sitting on the sofa watching a film, he covered me with a blanket so I wouldn’t get cold. It was a shock to have somebody take care of me like that. Just as I was about to relax, he demanded sex. Everything would be reported, he said when I tried to refuse.

We were two girls and several men who left to go North. On the way to Norway the men used us girls to pay the men in whose houses we spent the nights. When we got to Norway we met with some of the gangs of men my girlfriend and I knew from the apartment. They were here to steal. The pimps contacted Norwegian men who came and took pictures of us. They were used for advertisements in the Sunday papers. We got more customers when we changed our age from twenty to eighteen.

One day the pimps asked me to call my mother. She had reported me missing. It was six months since I left home and she hasn’t heard from me since. The pimp was standing next to me when I called. My mother started crying at once, I was crying too and all I was allowed to say was that I was alive and OK. Then he took the phone away. Later I learned that the police were tapping my mother’s phone, and when I called, they dropped the case.

The nice man we met in the capital had sold us. This is what I found out when I got here. I owed money to the pimps, they told me, because they had had a lot of expenses that I had to pay back. Sometime later I was sold to the guy who put a blanket around me, I will call him Max. From what I know, he paid 20 000 kroner for me. He was going to help me, he said and I needed desperately to believe him. But Max was a psychopath. Sometimes he almost killed me, and then he brought me perfume to make up for it. Then the next day he yelled at me again and told me that I was ugly and stupid, then he beat me up, and then he wanted to go to bed with me and comfort me. He used heroin, and injected me too - so it would not hurt so much, he said. After a while I was numb. I let him beat me up as much as he wanted; it was as if I wasn’t there. To die was all I really wanted to do.

Then one day I managed to run away. As if by a miracle I met a woman who took me to a crisis centre. But they didn’t accept me there. The woman we met said the country I came from was not far enough away from Norway, so I could just go home. Luckily we found another crisis centre where I was allowed to stay.

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

The network of pimps was slowly being unravelled and I had to give a testimony in court. A lot of the men were sentenced, but the one with the evil eyes is still at large. I am sure he is still doing what he used to do. I was so scared to meet the pimps in court, but it turned out that meeting their lawyers was even worse. One of them brought pictures they took in the hospital when I was there to have all my bruises examined. I was in my underwear in front of the camera, and felt both shameful and embarrassed. The lawyer had copied the pictures, he distributed them and said “look, she is smiling, she likes posing for nude pictures”. I thought I would go crazy. Some of the worst things they did to my mother. The same lawyer called her and asked if she was aware of what her daughter had been doing here. How could they do that? There was no other purpose but to humiliate her. I was devastated when I thought of what my mother was going through. Another lawyer called a woman I had worked for and said he was defending me. I was a prostitute in Norway, he said and wondered if I had been like that when she knew me too? These are well known and respected lawyers in Norway. They did what they could to smear me, to give the court the impression that I had done everything voluntarily.

I can never get back what I lost. My confidence in other people has gone. How can one live without confidence in other people? I have periods when I punish myself, the hatred is very deep. I get stomach-aches that sometimes make me faint. The psychopath I ran away from will soon be released. He will be free, he has served his sentence. It will never be over for me. This will be with me for the rest of my life. You can say I am serving a life sentence.

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