“Scars in my heart”


“His hand saved me.”

Because she wanted somebody to live for, Monica kept her pregnancy hidden.

When I see myself in the mirror I see a happy face, which is totally different from the face I had a few months ago. I like it so much here at the crisis centre, but I think about those who haven’t been as lucky as me. I remember stories from my home country about women who disappeared and now I know what might have happened to some of them. That is why I am telling my story, so that others will realize what is going on.

I grew up with my mother, as my father died before I was even one year old. I don’t have any memories of him, but my mother often told me that he was a good man. She missed him terribly, and was in despair when he died. My mother was very glad when a wealthy family we knew said that she could work for them. We lived on their property and when I was old enough, I helped around the house too. They were very kind people and treated me like a daughter. They had several children, one of them was a daughter of my own age. We played together all the time and we were like sisters. I loved her very much. When she came home from school, she always came to me to tell me what she had learned. That was my schooling. I cooked for her, and she taught me. My mother and I had a good life there.

But when I was eleven, my mother died. I remember how scared I was the day it happened. I was all alone in the world now, what was I going to do and how would I survive? I sat for a long time in the room where my mother lay, frightened and very sad. The family I lived with came to tell me that I needn’t be afraid. They would take care of me and I should look upon them as my own family, they said.

And so my life continued in much the same way as before. My sister and I were together every day. We played, went to school and told each other everything. Several years passed this way. Then one day she and I went on an errand in the city. On the way we saw a man we had seen before. He was around thirty years old and we knew he that lived in our neighbourhood, but that was all we knew. He looked at us, but mostly at me. We thought it was very exciting and talked a lot about it afterwards. He started walking past where I lived, staring at the house all the time.

One day my sister was very excited when she came home. She told me that the man had approached her and told her to tell me that he wanted to marry me. We thought it was very romantic. We had seen a lot of films with people who get married and are in love and to us this was just like being in one of those films. Then one day he suddenly appeared at the door. Nobody was at home, just me. “Come with me”, he said, and I put down what I had been working on and just walked out of the door without thinking. A thousand times I have thought about that moment and wondered why I did what I did. I was like a child, that is the only explanation I have. I had made myself a fantasy picture of reality and thought that all my dreams would become reality with this man, who told me that he wanted me.

We went to the house where he lived alone and he wanted to sleep with me straight away. We would soon be married, he said, but in a different city where his family and friends lived. After a week we traveled a long way, to where he said his relatives were. There he took me to a little room, where we stayed for two weeks. I asked him every day where his family was and when we were going to get married. “We will visit them soon and then get married”, he said, “but I have to talk with them first, prepare them, because my relatives don’t like us living together without being married”. Then one night he came and said we were going to visit a friend. There were two men in the room. “You sit here”, my husband told me, “we are just going outside for a smoke”. I waited a long time. In the end the two strange men came back in again. “Where is my husband?”, I asked. “He sold you to us”, they said, laughing. That laughter was just the beginning of my hell.

From then on I was never alone. For the first few weeks we lived in that room and both of them repeatedly raped me. Then they started sending men to me at night. Every time I tried to escape, they cut me with a razor blade. They cut deeper and deeper and sometimes I had to go to the hospital to be stitched up and several times I lost a lot of blood. Once they burnt me with a candle. I didn’t give up the thought of getting away somehow, but they watched me all the time. “We have bought you, so don’t try anything”, they told me.

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

After some months I became pregnant. I hid it so long that they couldn’t force me to have an abortion. I wanted that baby SO much. I needed to have somebody to live for, it was as if the baby gave me hope. The men didn’t notice anything until my stomach started getting very big. Then they became very angry, said I was ugly and started yelling at me. Not long after that they took me to another country. When I asked where we were, they said it was none of my business. They used the baby against me, threatening me by saying I couldn’t escape anymore, because then they would kill my baby. They continued sending customers to me. “It is not a problem that you are pregnant”, they said, “the only important thing is that you are alive”. They took all the money I made, food and clothes were the only things they gave me.

We weren’t in that new country very long, maybe two months, then we traveled on again. The men just laughed when I asked the name of the place where we were. We stayed in a hotel for several weeks and customers came, even though they could see that I was pregnant. One of them was drunk and burnt me with his cigarette. Then we went to a new country. I was never allowed outside the hotel room. Sometimes I asked customers where we were, but nobody would answer me. Many of the customers were married. I know that, because sometimes I tried to make myself more attractive than usual, so one of them might want to marry me. But every time the customer would tell me he couldn’t because he already had a wife.

After a while it was just as if I had disappeared. I couldn’t even feel my own heart. Everybody else told me what to do, I was just a body, a body without a heart. I remember thinking that I might as well lose my baby. What if I have a girl and they sell her and she has to do the same as me? Still, I never totally gave up hope for a better life. The last place we came to was a European country. The men looked like the men in this country, so I knew it was Europe. After a few weeks in a hotel room, they put me in a taxi and we left and drove for a long time, day and night. We finally stopped in an open space with a lot of people and cars. It was a Thursday in December, at eight in the morning but I didn’t know then that we were in Oslo.

The men asked me to sit quietly while they went a few metres away to make a phone call. I saw them dialing a number and start talking to somebody. I didn’t think, I just took the bag next to me on the seat, opened the door and grabbed the hand of a man who happened to be passing by. “Please help me, I am helpless”, I said. I think he turned around and saw the men and they saw me holding the hand of a tall, white man. He didn’t say anything, but never let go of me. The man took me to a police station. I sat on a bench there and folded my hands really, really tightly and thought whatever happens I’m not leaving. I told the police everything and they were very nice to me. That night I had a terrible stomach pain. A policeman took me to the doctor the next day and she said it was stress. It wasn’t long before I gave birth.

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

At the reception centre I cried and cried. I knew nothing about what was going to happen and nothing about where I was. Everything turned out OK when I got to know ROSA. From then on I managed to breathe calmly and relax a bit. I am fine now. I hope to be allowed to stay. To go back to my own country with a child and no husband, just simply isn’t possible. No woman lives like that there. All I want is to do is learn Norwegian, get a job and give my child the chance of a better life than I have had. I think a lot about the few seconds that those men left me alone, when I managed to do something and the good man who just happened to be there when I put out my hand. I wish I could thank him properly. His hand saved me.

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