“Scars in my heart”


“All I could think was how everything would be better if I left home.”

Appealing to Vera’s feeling of guilt was the smartest thing the pimp could do.

I never dreamed of going abroad. I was content to learn hair dressing and get work in a salon afterwards. It made me so happy to make people’s hair look good. My plans for the future were to continue with my job, get married, have children and continue living where I grew up. The city I lived in was beautiful, with big parks. I have always enjoyed going for walks there. My father often came with me, when he got home from work. Our walks together are my favourite childhood memories.

Both my parents worked and we managed well on their salaries. We had a good life, but during the last years everything became more difficult. People don’t have money and there is a severe lack of jobs and apartments. When young people get married, they have to live with their parents. Many young people in my city dream of going abroad to study or work and I know a lot of people who left. I myself never had big dreams. I thought my life was good as it was. I lived at home and had a good relationship with my parents until I got a boyfriend that my father didn’t like. That is when we started quarrelling. Both of us can be pretty stubborn and I thought he was much stricter with me than with my brothers.

When I was out with some friends one day, I met a sympathetic and nice man. I didn’t fall in love, he was older than me and had a wife and a child, but I liked him. Because of his connections, several young girls now had jobs abroad, he told me. I wasn’t interested, I told him. A couple of days later, he invited me out. We met several times, went out for coffee and talked about ordinary things. One day he said there was a hotel in Norway that needed a cleaning woman. He wanted to know if I was interested.

His question came at a time when the situation at home was even more difficult than it usually was and I had been thinking of how nice it would be to move. This is a chance to get away from the quarrels with my father, I said to myself. Several of my friends warned me and said a lot of girls had been deceived by offers like that and my mother was nervous about what could come of it. My boyfriend said the relationship was over if I left, but that was OK with me as things were not good between us anymore. I trusted this man and said yes. All I could think of was how everything would be better if I left home. I thought I would stay there for some time, make money and then return home. That was my plan. The man told me to get a passport and ticket. Everything went very quickly.

He was waiting for me when I arrived in Norway. Everything was new and different and I was very happy to see a familiar face. We went to an apartment and he told me to relax and get some sleep. “We will talk tomorrow”, he said, “you must be tired now”. Before he left, he wanted my passport. He was going to take care of it and make sure it wasn’t stolen, he said. The next day he told me that unfortunately I was too late for the job, another girl had arrived ahead of me. I was very disappointed and wondered why he made me come when the job offer no longer existed. Most of all I wanted to go home. I told him so. “Take it easy, I will find something else for you”, he told me. I should be patient and wait a while.

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

A week passed. He was kind to me, brought me food and sometimes we went out for coffee or lemonade. One day when we were out we came to a street where several girls from my home country were standing. All of a sudden he asked me “What do you think about this kind of work?” I didn’t like it at all and told him so. “But you have stayed with me for days, I have paid for your food, for everything in fact”, he told me. “I see no other possibility for you than this.” I couldn’t refuse. I knew he had had a lot of expenses because of me and in what other way could I pay him back what I owed him? He showed me where to stand in that street, that was all. Before he left, he told me to use a condom and how much I should ask. The rates were different, it all depended upon what the customers wanted and if it was in a car or at home.

I was on the street for six months, every day except Sunday. The first month I had to give him all the money I made. Later he wanted half. Some days I made 2-3000 kroner, around …  Euro. Those days I was out till 3 or 4 in the morning. He seemed to know exactly what I was doing, even when he wasn’t there. When he showed up, he knew how many times I had been in a car or gone home with a customer. Sometimes we quarrelled and one time he got very angry and broke something. He threatened me and said he would get violent with me if necessary. Some customers frightened me. One of them became aggressive because he didn’t want to use a condom.

One day the man told me he was going home for a while. He demanded that I keep on sending money every week while he was away and for a while I did. Not long after he left, I met a man from my home country. I told him my story. He knew another girl in the same situation as me, he said, she had received help to get away. He called her and she took me to ROSA. They sent me to a crisis centre and I am still there.

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

Before I met this man, I was very low. I didn’t think I could manage anything and felt nobody would ever want me. No man will marry me, I will never be loved by anybody, that is how I thought. The unknown man knew how I felt and did everything he could to prevent me from giving up. “Somebody will love you and accept you as you are”, he told me. He helped me a lot, gave me strength and told me that I was a capable girl and a good person. I was very lucky to meet him. Other girls don’t have the same luck.

Before he left, the man who brought me here told me that he does not work alone, he has partners. He knows where my family lives and I keep thinking about what would happen if I go back and he still thinks that I owe him a lot of money. The thought scares me. My parents asked me why I didn’t come home for Christmas. I should come back, they tell me, but I don’t dare go.

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