The Sacred Solidarity of Survivor Voices

Someone asked me recently was I not pissed off that, after ten years of working on my memoirs, another former Irish prostitute who had just begun blogging had secured a book deal for her own book, which was to be launched before mine.  That was a fair question and I could see why it would be asked, but it was not a question that could be answered with a yes or a no.  It strongly necessitated a ‘no and here’s why’ answer, so I decided to blog about the ‘why’ part.

The book my friend was referring to is due out in the autumn of this year, about four months or so before my own and will be titled ‘Secret Diary of a Dublin Call Girl’.  It is currently being written by a young Irish woman known on the internet as DCG (Dublin Call Girl)

I first came across Dublin Call Girl’s blog in January of this year.  I came across it because, in the aftermath of completing the book, I didn’t know how to disengage from the subject.  Also, in a climate where prostitution was heating up as a political issue, I didn’t want to.

I was directed to a group-blog called Survivors Connect Network, and what I found there were blog-links to the writings of prostitution survivors from all over the world.  DCG’s blog was among them.

The first thing that struck me about her writing was that she used soft and evocative language; heartbreaking language, that moved me to tears more than once.  As a survivor of prostitution, that says a lot.  It says that she captured the prostitution experience in a very profound way.  The small things; they are often the things that set us survivors apart from the rest of society.  The things we think of, the things we remember, the things we struggle to forget; the things we can’t get through a single day without being assaulted by.  They were all there.

I was so glad.  My heart sung with joy to find this evidence of another Irish woman exploring her prostitution past, in the face of this psychological tsunami so few of us can push past to tell our truths.  I was so thankful that this young woman had chosen to defy the pain that assails us, and to call attention to it, and to put it before the public, at the cost of a pain that is beyond the comprehension of so many to fully understand.  I felt a deep and sincere affection for her.  I still do.

I started an email communication with Stella Marr, who is an American domestic sex-trafficking survivor and the founding member of Survivors Connect Network.  I told her that my book was completed and trying to find a home, but that I didn’t know how long that would take and because the issue of prostitution was now politically current in Ireland I felt I wanted to join the debate in the meantime.  I told her also that I intended to go public with my identity when the book came out, but that until then I’d like to keep my identity to myself.  She encouraged me to begin an anonymous blog of my own, and I thought that was a good idea, so I did.

As I did, I continued to follow the blogs of other women, paying particular attention to DCG’s, as she is a fellow Irish woman.  As her blog unfolded and her story was laid out, I came to understand something I’d like to put before the readers of this blog now.  It is that my story and hers are different in every way two women’s stories can be different, except for the most important way, which is the conclusion we both draw from them.

To being with, we are from different social classes.  She identifies as middle class whereas I am from a working class background, raised in council housing.  My family was severely impoverished and I came to prostitution through homelessness and destitution.  I can only assume, from what she writes, that DCG’s early upbringing was the opposite, and unlike me, she came to prostitution though the grooming of sexual abuse.  Many women mirror my entry point and many women mirror hers.  A lot of women, tragically, mirror both.

Our stories are also different in other ways.  I was prostituted from the age of fifteen to twenty-two, throughout most of the nineties.  She was prostituted from twenty-one to twenty-six, through the latter half of the noughties (I hate that term, but we have no other).

I worked in all areas of prostitution; the streets, brothels, massage parlours and escort agencies.  She worked privately, in escort agencies, advertising online, which was an area of prostitution only taking off the same year I left it.  I consider myself lucky to have missed that, especially for the sake of the creepy punters online ‘reviews’, where punters review every aspect of the women they have bought – pouring verbal contempt and scorn all over them.  This contempt repulses me beyond measure, and I have the deepest sort of sympathy for the innumerable women who’ve endured it.

Our prostitution histories are different also in the sense that, unlike DCG, I didn’t come to understand prostitution as something that was damaging retrospectively.  I lived every moment of it as sexually abusive right there, as it was happening.  This would obviously have made the experience of it more painful, but I strongly suspect it makes the memory of it less so.

On the subject of survivor memoirs: not in spite of how different, but rather because of how different, the memoirs of prostitution survivors compliment each other and are mutually strengthening, in a profoundly significant sense.  This is because they cause people to understand that a woman or girl can come to prostitution through a myriad of circumstances, at any time, at any age, for many reasons, or for a mish-mash of reasons.  Our different stories assert this.  They emphasise and state and declare it.  These are our truths.  They are different truths, but they all end up in the same place – that mind-shattering reality of having your heart broken and your legs open on a brothels bed.

The fact is that the blogs and books of every survivor who honestly lays down her story do not detract, but rather affirm the writings of other women.  For all these reasons and other reasons besides, it is essentially important that the stories of survivor women stand alongside each other; just as us women must do and should do.  We are all living the survival of the same pain and those of us who choose to speak out live all the same fears, are subject to all the same threats, suffer all the same traumas and are targeted at all the same points of our obvious vulnerabilities.

Our sincerest warm wishes for each other are a healing balm that should be poured liberally and continually, with love and without restraint.  So to answer the question I was asked the other day: stupid jealousies and resentments should never get a look-in here, because, besides anything else, you can’t be in competition when you’re on the same team.

FreeIrishWoman

13 thoughts on “The Sacred Solidarity of Survivor Voices

  1. Pingback: The Sacred Solidarity of Survivor Voices « Survivors Connect Network

  2. I am impressed with your well written response to the question presented to you.

    I’ve never been a “call girl” but my experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse makes me interested in this topic since I first discovered it by accident on the blogs. I do believe any vulnerable female can become a victim to prostitution and and that’s my reason for caring. What’s the difference between a wife being controlled by her husband or a man’s wallet dictating what a young woman will do for him. All of it pisses me off! Men should not have more power over women ever–in a any circumstance!

    I want to read your book and DCG’s when in hits the stores. I agree that “you can’t be in competition when you’re on the same team.” I’m on your team, too.

    You are impressive — intelligent, articulate and, most of all, I see you taking the high road. Good for you!

    Wishing you all that you deserve, –Daylily

    • Thank you Daylily, for your lovely supportive comments, as always.

      I just think that sometimes in life there are places where rivalries are necessary and beneficial and also other places where they’re totally unnecessary and tragic. If every woman who ever found prostitution traumatising wrote a book about it I would go out and throw a party – and I can assure you the shelves in Easons would be stocked in advance for many decades to come.

  3. Hi there, what a brilliant post — you are a superb writer. It was interesting for me to read how the members of Survivors Connect came/come together. I’ve read a few blogs due to that site and am floored, heartbroken and educated after reading stuff from each writer. Everyone has their own style, stories and thoughts, and you are all equally deeply thoughtful and articulate. I really appreciate how you speak to the similarities and differences between exited women, and how both are equally important, and that solidarity is key. I imagine that punters and pimps played enough hierarchy games and pitting women against eachother, so it’s refreshing as a woman to see other women come together in solidarity = strength! In my eyes, your collective voices are leading the prostitution abolition movement and holy hell do you women have POWER (I feel it resonate through your words, all of you). Much Peace and Respect to you All.

    p.s. I want to read any and all books that exited women write, those are the only voices I’m interested in hearing when it comes to porn and prostitution because you are the real experts.

    • You said:

      “. I want to read any and all books that exited women write, those are the only voices I’m interested in hearing when it comes to porn and prostitution because you are the real experts”

      I just wanted to say that every time I read one of your comments I feel doubly enlightened. I never gave this much thought, but damn are you right. You too are an effective writer and though most of your comments are for Rachel, I look for them regularly as I feel they always shed a light I missed on a dark spot.

  4. Girl, I love love love love this!!!!!!!

    I agree that there is not any sort of competition whatsoever; stories published before ours only strengthen and motivate us with the courage to share ours too! It is a deep, affectionate, even mysterious bound

  5. *bond (not bound) that we have with each other, without even needing to see each other in person, because of how unique our experienced are. I got into it more the way you did than how DCG did, but we all have been sold. We all know what it is to be merchandise.

    You are an amazing writer! A special, supportive friend! And I look forward to reading your book. I’m thankful I got the privilege of connecting with you and.Stella. I literally wept and wept when I first discovered there are other survivors out there. What a special gift you all are to me.

    Xoxo

  6. Hi Rachel,

    I love your blog, and I’m waiting for your book to arrive from the UK. I can’t wait to read it! This is the best stuff I’ve been able to find about prostitution. You are such a good writer and your position is so humane and crystal-clear and honest. Survivors seem to be finding new strategies for explaining their experiences so that other people will really understand, and that does something for all women living under patriarchy and the cruelty of capitalism. I have not been a prostitute, but I have worked as a drink hostess which was disgusting, and lived my whole life as a woman, and as a teenager I came close to being on the streets and and also I was raped as a young girl, and I feel very smashed down by it all. The other writer that I have liked very much is Stella Marr, whom you mention above, but she seems to have disappeared from the internet. She has deleted her Facebook account and her blog is private. Dublin Call Girl, whom you also mention above, has also deleted her blog. I wasn’t able to read either of them before they disappeared (I read a few pieces of Stella’s and some of her forum comments elsewhere). I was wondering if you are still in touch with those women and if they are okay. I see Stella is still listed as being head of a survivor’s agency so that’s a good sign, but I have tried to contact her and she has not responded so I’m a bit worried.

  7. I understand completely and agree. You cannot win your war alone. One voice may be loud, but it is still one voice. Millions of voices shouting out in unity, however, is powerful. It takes one to start things, as one speaks out, more feel emboldened to.

    One of the biggest reasons I’m still wavering is I’m waiting for more “voices”. So far, and I’m sorry to say, this blog is the only account like this I’ve found. Your site is powerful and moving. However, it is by itself as far as I know. I have no way to know that yours is not a singular experience…unless you care to steer me towards other similar sites of “survivors”…

    If there are other survivors, it is their voices in unity, singing the same horror stories that is going to win legislation and action. Particularly, “representative prostitutes” who have been in for long term and “seen it all”.

    If they’re out there, I hope they speak out. Even anonymously.

  8. Just discovered your voice. Grateful that you wear BRAVE and advocate, grateful that you share your story, that you speak your lived experience as one voice among many survivors and advocates .. and as one voice FOR many to come. Talk about legacy, talk about hero ..thanks for speaking your story! And certainly writing up a storm .. I look forward to your book!

  9. I read this for the first time tonight Rachel. It’s 11pm and my daughter turned 18 yesterday… there was a time when recovering from prostitution, despite my relatively happy family background and continuing love there, that I didn’t think I’d survive motherhood. The damage. The coping strategies I used to null the trauma . What kind of mother was I? What chance did she have when I was out of prostitution for years, but still so broken? …Well, here she is, home from university for her birthday- sitting drawing on the floor, like she always has. Glowing, bright,- very sensitive, it’s true, and struggling with money like me- But I thank my stars for the women I’ve met through out my life, who are strong, vulnerable, with formidable love and justice in their hearts- women like you. It’s because of women like you that I stood a chance and because of that, so does she. Thank you, as ever, for your words. In solidarity. x

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