“Scars in my heart”


“Everybody in the village thought the men wanted to help us.”

The people who always called her a 'fucking bitch' are gone now, but the scars in her heart will always remain.

Sometimes I can’t remember how many years have gone by since I left home. At other times I remember and it hurts. Once in a while I am back in the nightmare. Then I have to tell myself “you are here now – in the crisis centre and it’s all over”. I tell myself those words over and over again, but they don’t always help.

It is as if my childhood and everything I left belong to another world. What must Granddad think about me? That I left him and don’t care about him anymore? The thought makes me cry. It was to my grandfather I went when I was left alone. My mother, sisters and brothers all died, because of the war in our country and my father had gone to the city to find work. I don’t know if he is alive or dead. I was happy to be with my Granddad, he was very kind. His legs were injured during the war and he had great difficulty walking, so he was glad I came. It was up to me to provide something to eat. We got milk from our animals and sold what we didn’t need ourselves. When I had finished the day’s work, I went to school. The teacher said I was a fast learner. Life was not all work; I had friends and time for fun and games with them. It was a small, self-contained world. When somebody needed help with something, they just asked, everybody helped each other.

Then one day two men we didn’t know came to my village. We didn’t get many visitors and the guests were very well received. The men said they knew about jobs for girls in another country. Girls who accepted the offer would become famous, they said. One of them told my grandfather that if he let me go, I would come back with money so that he could have an operation on his legs and build a new house. The men gave him some money and I got some too. Me and three other girls said we would go abroad with them, the youngest was only fifteen years old. The men provided passports for everybody, and one day they came back in a car to get us. I feel so stupid for going with them, but everybody in the village thought that the men wanted to help us.

In the beginning they were normal and nice to us and everything was friendly between us. When we were about to eat, they would ask us what we wanted and what we liked. In the city they gave us money to go shopping. We felt so beautiful in our new clothes. We travelled a long time, day and night. Then one day the men became different. It was as if their faces changed and became unrecognizable. They gave us pills and told us to swallow them. The drugs made us drowsy and we had no energy to resist when the men raped us. One of the girls became hysterical and said she refused to go any further, she wanted to go home. The men killed her and forced us to look at her bloody body. This is what happens with people who protest, they said. It is difficult for me to speak about what happened that day. I realized that nothing was the way I had imagined it to be.

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

The men wanted to scare us. They raped us, beat us up and called us whores. We weren’t allowed to talk to each other, we were never left alone and we shouldn’t even bother to think about contacting the police, they said. “The police work for us and if you talk, they’ll tell us”, they said. “Whoever talks will be killed just like your girlfriend”. I don’t know where we were, not even which country we were in. I just know that we travelled to many different places, lived in apartments that I would never be able to find again. We travelled and travelled, always at night. Everywhere we went, they found men for us. We were given food, but some days only one meal and we never saw the money we made. They never used my name when they talked to me, they just called me 'fucking bitch'.

I tried to hang on to the thought that I am Eva, the one from the village, who took care of her grandfather who loved her. It was very hard. Customers came every day and played with me, beat me and one of them stubbed his cigarette out on my body. Every man I met treated me as if I wasn’t a human being, but something else. I was like an object to them, something they could use any way they wanted. I didn’t have the right to say no. I was unable to decide anything in my life, but I tried not to forget that I am a human being.

The men had been in other villages and taken other girls with them before us, of this I am sure. Wherever we went they had contacts to call and apartments where we could live and they always knew how to get customers for us. Once we were taken to a big office in a city somewhere in Europe. Several men and a woman were sitting round a table. It was like an organization and one of the men was being treated as if he was the big boss that the others respected. In most cities we came to, our contact was a man, but sometimes it was a woman.

I started losing hope. It seemed to me that the only way out was to die, like the girl they had killed. I knew that these men would never, ever set me free. I would never see my grandfather and my country again. I got up every morning, but I wasn’t really alive.

An accident saved me. We were going to a new place. It was night, and all of a sudden there was a big bang. We were thrown around inside the car. One of the men looked dead when we came to and all of a sudden the other one took my hand to pull me away from the wreck. I couldn’t see the other two girls, so I don’t know what happened to them. Everything was chaotic and my body hurt after the crash. The man stopped a car and we got a ride to the nearest city. There I managed to run away. I met a man in the street and told him that I needed help. He took me to the police. They received me in a nice way and sent me to a crisis centre. I had never heard about anything like that before. The women who worked there were gentle and kind and talked to me llike I was a human being.

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

Several months later I was sent to Norway, because it turned out that I had been there before I got to the other country and those were the rules. I told the police everything, but the men are still free. I long for justice, that they should be punished for what they did. Since I came here I’ve been in the same crisis centre. My life goes on and I want to thank God for it, but I think a lot about the other girls from home. What has happened to them, did they get away? I’ve been to the doctor to have pictures taken of the scars and marks on my body. The staff at the doctor’s office was shocked when they saw me. But they didn’t see the scars in my heart, these aren't visible in pictures. The scars there are much deeper and I try not to think too much. When I think about what has happened, it's like I become somebody else. I am no longer Eva who is here and I cry and cry for days at a time. It's so hard to sleep without sleeping pills then, but I try. I have papers saying I can stay here. I know I have been given the possibility of a future. I will do everything I can in order to find a way forward.

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. For copyright issues, contact KILDEN
Illustrations: www.colourbox.no