I am in my late forties.
I was inside the sex industry in Scotland for around 15 years. I became involved in my early thirties, and I was involved mainly in street prostitution.
I am now fully exited and have been outside of the sex industry for almost two years. I have no plans to return.
I am doing well in recovery and enjoying spending time decorating my own home.
I am back at college and doing well on my course, enjoying the challenges of learning and processing all the new information. I hope to work supporting other women who have been inside the sex industry or have issues with drugs.
My mum told me I was the biggest mistake she’d ever made, I ruined her career and if I'd been a boy then I wouldn't have been going home with her. I heard that like a litany from the age of, well, as young as I can remember. It was horrible.
I mean for a long time it didn't kind of sink in but then as I got older sort of towards like eight or nine, that's when it really started to hurt. I'd heard it so much, for a long time.
I was brought up by my grandparents. When I was six years old, my mum chose to leave me with my grandparents and go away and further her career. She come over once a year to visit, usually at times when I wasn't on holiday or anything like that. I couldn't get to spend time with her. You know what I mean? When I stayed with my grandparents, I was away through the week at school – I used to stay/board in one of the hostels in the school grounds. I went to school on a Sunday, back on a Friday. I never had a bedroom of my own to go back to, not knowing where I was going to be. My grandparents had a B&B. If I was to be sleeping on the couch or the caravan out the back. Never having anything personal, no-safe space to go to. I didn't have one.
There was this big onus on "You need to get an education, you need to get a good education" and I'd always had good marks at school. I'd always done well at school but I couldn't get my homework done because there was folk up for bed and breakfast, you know what I mean? I couldn't get my books laid out, I'd no bedroom to go into. I didn't have study time and I still managed to pull down nine of the exams. It was a case of everything that I wanted to do, "Auch, don't be stupid you'll never manage to do that." That was from my mum.
I never felt I belonged. Nowhere at all. I adored my grandparents. Very much so. I had one aunty that I was very close to and if I'd been given an opportunity, I would have gone and lived with her. I used to go to her in the summer holidays and it was the only time that I felt like I had a home life.
I was fourteen when I went back to live with my mother. I moved in with her and my step-father. I felt quite powerless in a way. All these decisions being made about my life. That's where I was going, that's what was happening. There was no option, that was just it.
She'd been engaged to my step-dad for eight years by this point and I knew nothing about it. I found out they were getting married when I got sent home sick from school and caught her writing out wedding invitations. He was actually working away through the week and just coming home at weekends so it wasn't so bad but even so, when my mum would come home from work, she wasn't interested. It was a very lonely place to be.
I had moved to a tiny little village and everything's taken away from me. I can't do this and I can't do that and I can't do the next thing. I'm thinking, "Well, why not?" I actually started to really resent my mum because it was a case of, wait a minute, I've spent every day of the last eight years wishing that I was with you and now I'm with you, I can't do anything. It wasn't quite what I wished for. I'm now a firm believer in being careful what you wish for 'cos you might just get it.
I had my children young. I was sixteen when I had my first and nineteen when I had the second. I started smoking dope when I was about seventeen, when I was with my kids' father. It was something that he done – I had never done it before. He and I split up when I was nineteen. My youngest was eight weeks old when we split.
Their dad was a drinker, he was a waste of space. He let them down a lot even when he got himself a job. He used to promise them the world. They'd be standing in the living room window waiting for him and he wouldn't turn up and I'm making excuses for him. It's very hard for you to see them being let down. All the time I'm thinking sort of, "You fucking arsehole.”
I was on my own for a couple of years with the kids. I always worked to keep them and myself.
I met this guy who lived in the same street as me. He had a bit of a thing for me. I was actually, without realising it, buying my dope from him. He was a good guy, he was a hard worker. He had a good job, he supported me, and he supported the kids. We worked as a team. It was the first time I'd had stability in my life. That was what I wanted for my kids.
He used to go out at weekends and he would take E's and that. I was never in that kind of crowd. He had started to take gear. I didn't even know what it was the first time he brought it in the house. We were friends with these other couples and they would come to my house if the kids weren't there. I'm sitting having a couple of joints, they're having two lines and they're out their face. I'm smoking a score of dope and thinking – wait a minute, why am I on this and they're on that, you know what I mean? It was pretty much a case of monkey see, monkey do to be honest. I believed I didn't deserve him and so I thought that to keep him, I had to do what he was doing.
The first time that I was strung out I thought I had a cold. I stayed at work all day, came home feeling absolutely lousy. One of my boyfriend's friends, he says, “You haven't got a cold. You're strung out." I still refused to believe that I was an addict. It was possibly about a year later when I realised I had a problem.
We were both working but we were dealing to keep our habits going, so that we could both function and get to work and look after the kids.
I went and got a methadone script but it in those days, the early days of methadone, it was a case of you'd sell your meth to somebody who didn't have enough money for gear or whatever. Because we were dealing we didn't use it ourselves.
Things got bad in that relationship. He was taking valium along with the heroin behind my back and I had no clue he'd also started injecting. He felt bad for that and the guilt just got too much and he would end up taking it out on me, he'd end up snapping at me and things like that when he never had before. He lost his job and I was the only one that was working. Things weren't good between us and I told him to leave. That argument led to him grabbing me and that was the end. I wasn't going to put up with it again. My first husband was violent. I was not going to put up with it again.
It did all end very badly.
I ended up going back to my mums to live with her and my step-father and it was an impossible situation. I could not sit in the same house as that man. Straight. I just couldn't do it. She wouldn't get any education about addiction or anything like that. She wouldn't talk about anything. She thought that the best way to deal with it was to take my income support books off me and hand me enough money for my fags every day, you know what I mean? I'd been keeping myself for years and had to go back to losing all my independence. To go back to that just wasn't going to work.
My step-father, he just picked and picked and picked. He undermined me with the kids. One day I just couldn't take it anymore and I went out and I got wasted and I didn't go home. It just got like the longer I left it the harder it was to go back.
I got in touch with her after about three weeks and she just said to me, "Look, your stepdad says you can't come back to the house." He had made that decision. I was like, "When are you ever going to fight for me?" and "What about the kids?” My mum, she just washed her hands of me completely and my stepfather – well, he closed the door.
She'd split my kids up, she'd put my son to my ex-husband's and kept my daughter. If she'd kept them together, it would have been so much easier for them but she separated them. She did a lot of damage to my relationship with the kids, to the kids' relationship with each other. I should never have let the kids down. At the end of the day, that's the upshot – I shouldn't have let them down. But I did.
By the time I was twenty nine, I was on the streets, on my own, no home, no job, no kids, no family, no support, nothing.
I got pregnant again and I had a little boy. I went into a privately rented place and had him at home with me. He had meningitis the week after his first birthday, he was really really ill. Ten weeks in hospital and I stayed with him the whole time. It left him with some special needs. I had him with me until he was three. He was adopted out when he was three.
I felt I had nowhere to go. I didn't feel like I had anything anchoring me. The only thing that was getting me through was the drugs. I got involved with a guy I knew. He's like, "Look, you can come and stay with me no strings attached." Until I got there and it's not just no strings attached. He stabbed me six times with a ten inch knife. It was a case of, “If I can't have you nobody else is going to have you.”
I'd been given like some bags of gear to sell by somebody that I knew, to try and help me out. Somebody had said to me, "Look go down to the harbour, the girls down there on the street, they're always looking for stuff, and you'll get it sold."
I went down with some of the stuff and there was one lassie that I knew. "Look." she says, "I'm just away to get picked up. Wait for me, I'll come back and I'll take them both off you." Whilst she was away a car stopped at me, a punter stopped and to this day I don't know what was going through my head at all, I just went and I did it. Somebody put the opportunity in front of me and I took it. Yep. I never thought I'd end up working on the streets. Selling myself.
I can't remember anything about that first night. Nothing about that first punter. I blocked it all out. Totally blocked it out. I went home and scrubbed myself completely. I think I was in the shower for about two hours but then a few weeks later I did it again and once you'd done it the first time and money was in your hand, the option's there. I always got dressed, I was clean and I had my make-up and things on. I made decent money. Don't get me wrong we've all had nights where we've stood out there and made nothing but generally I made alright money.
I moved in with a couple I knew. I ended up staying with them a lot because it was fine and handy for work. I was bringing money back from prostitution and it was keeping them in drugs as well. Their habits were getting kept along with mine so they were more than happy for me to stay. It suited them to have me involved. Yep very much so. The women herself, she wasn't involved – Oh no! But she didn't mind me doing it. I was their golden cash cow.
I was totally unprepared for that life in prostitution. Completely unprepared. Not a clue basically and I think for a long time I was like that. Even though I was always careful and things like that, I wasn't you know, I wasn't prepared at all. I mean I possibly done it for two years before I finally got it together.
It really wasn't Pretty Woman for me. There was never any glamour in it. Never any.Standing in the freezing cold. You've got your high heeled boots on and the snow's away up your heels, it's still snowing, it's freezing cold and these cars are going round and round and round and round and round. No there was never any glamour in it. Never.
The other women helped me out the start. It was them that put me wise to the prices. I suppose I was lucky when I started doing it as the crack wasn't big on the scene at the time. They were mainly heroin addicts but they did very much look out for each other. They had each other's backs, they used to take numbers of the cars and things like that. When the crack came on the scene, the whole vibe and the whole dynamic of it changed completely. Instead of having each other's backs, the women were putting knives in each other which was quite sad.
There was quite a lot of them used to say about me "Oh look here's mum, she'll have condoms." I kind of mothered them. I always made sure that they had condoms and if they didn't have enough money to score, I would give them a few extra quid. I don't know why I was doing all that for them. I don't know. It was obviously to try and fulfill some need, something inside of me but what it was I couldn't actually pinpoint to be honest. I think partly because a lot of them were so young and I was missing my own kids so much.
I used to think, "God forbid that this was my daughter." I just wanted them to go home and not be doing it. They were sort of maybe about eighteen, nineteen, twenty but some of them looked a lot younger. They got all the real sort of pervy horrible dirty looking punters. They'd be drawn to the younger looking girls. The punters that would stop and say, "Oh do you do it without a condom?" and things like that and I'd be like, "No. Do one." Then you'd see the younger girls getting into that car. I'd be thinking "Oh God no, come on” but some of the punters would want that and some of the girls were prepared to do it. They were in those situations where it's very hard when someone's offering you a little bit extra money. It's very difficult to say no.
I'd had quite a few regulars which is where I was really lucky. I got to the stage where I was working mostly off of my phone and I wasn't having to stand out on the street quite as much. There was a couple of regulars that I saw at my own place and there was a couple that I went to theirs and there was another couple that we used to use hotels. I felt more control in the regulars' houses because they've got neighbours. They've got lives that they don't want other people to know about, they're not going to start anything in their own home that might attract the neighbours' attention.
When they came to mine, it wasn't a case of going into my bedroom. It was the living room. I had a quilt that I put on the floor and nobody was getting into my bedroom. 'Cos that's, that's mine, you know what I mean? That's my personal space and I have to sleep in that bed and I won't feel comfortable. I don't want anybody in that bed unless I want them to be there. That's my protected space, my space. I like to go home shut my door and do my own thing.
I never knew any escorts or women like that. They kept themselves very separate from the street workers here. This town has got a very snobby element, it's a very class driven city. The Eastern European girls in the brothels look down on the escorts, the escorts look down on the working girls, the working girls look down on the strippers that'll do a blowjob and sell it for a fiver. It's like that hierarchy.
People judge women in prostitution. It's a sad fact that they do. I've often said to people it's an unfair judgement that's placed on the women. Not every working girl is a dirty, skanky you know what. They're just not. They're just trying to get by. It's the only option that they can see that is left to them that's not going to put them in prison and that's the upshot.
The women need to be safe. There needs to be protective legislation in place for the women.
I think it's a ridiculous to make this like a free market with no legislation though. You remove laws and the organized gangs, they'd be bringing girls up here and firing them out on the streets left, right and centre. The brothels up here – they're run by guys. The girls are brought in and you know, some of them are being forced. Some of them, they have to take their babies to those houses and they're put in like a creche in one of the rooms while they go and do business with punters. In the rooms and that. No, taking away all legislation's ridiculous. Making it legal, just a free for all is just nonsense. It really is.
There was quite a lot of violence towards other women. I have been very, very lucky. Once I was attacked by a guy towards the end of my time working down there. I also got attacked by a group in a car. There was lassies in that car as well. I remember saying to one of them, the lassies, "Do you know something? This is never my career choice. Yeah, it's only there for the grace of God that you are not here. I hope to God you never have to be standing in the position that I'm standing in now." That is what finally put the nail in the coffin for me. I got to a stage where I couldn't keep doing this to myself.
You do become detached and you start to see yourself from the outside but not really see yourself at all. You all just become these numb statues that stand on a street corner, goes through the motions, doesn't think about anything too much because if you do, you don't know how your brain's gonna cope with it. I used to feel like screaming but I thought, "If I start to scream now, I'm not going to be able to stop." I'm going get signed in somewhere and be sectioned and that's going to be it you know? I think there's probably a lot of girls out there that feel like that but some of them don't have the ability to say it, some of them don't maybe realise that's what it is. I would have times where I was like, "Right do you know what, I don't care. Fuck it. I'm not doing it, I'm not doing it."
Not that long ago actually one of my old regular clients just turned up at my house – obviously he hadn't see me for a while and didn't know I had stopped. He turned up and I was like, "Look, I can't see youse. I'm with somebody, I'm no longer working and I've no intention of going back to it" and he's like, "Well, can I take your number anyway in case things go wrong?" and I was like, "No. You can't 'cos even if things went wrong I still wouldn't want to see you." In case things go wrong? What, so you think you can make things right for me do you? You'll be waiting here until something cracks or something goes wrong? You'll just wait in the background, just hover about? He got the message like loud and clear though when I had finished with him.
It's not a job like any other job. It's a job that takes away from you every time you do it. It takes something away from you that can either be a struggle to get it back or you can't get back. Unfortunately it could be one of those times when that little bit of something is taken away, that could be the last time.
“It's easy money.” You know that term, that used to annoy me. It's not "easy money". If you operate honestly, then it's honest money 'cos you're not taking anything from anybody that doesn't want to give it to you in the first place but it's definitely not easy money. This nonsense that some guys say, "Oh, if I was a woman I'd be doing it." "You're sitting on a gold mine, love." Really? Well, I don't see any of you doing it. A gold mine? Well the truth is more like, "Yeah I'm also frozen to the bone, absolutely knackered. Terrified shitless that that something else is going to happen." Does that sound easy?
After the last attack, I just couldn't go back out. I couldn't. I literally just could not do it. I thought to myself, "Do you know what? There's got to be more than this. There's got to be more than this, there just has to be." I just knew that I had to get out and if I didn't get out the only way I was going to get out was in a box. That's the stage that it got to.
Sometimes I stop and think to myself, how am I still alive after what I've gone through but I'm here.
If I had not met my support worker, I would have been dead by now. She has saved my life on so many occasions. Sometimes just by being at the end of the phone, sometimes by sitting and speaking to me for hours. She is the one person that kept me going. She kept me certain that I could stop. She got me out of another bad relationship and into the refuge. That was when it started to change, the cycle started to break a bit. My worker has given me a lot of help and I've kind of realised that I didn't believe that I deserved anything good in my life. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here. She was there for me, when I went off the rails, she stuck by me. She'd still be there for me. There was no judgement there. She has been the stable relationship for me. Something I never really had before.
There needs to be proper concrete support for women. They need secure accommodation, maybe supported living at the start. If they need to, get them on a script. Help them make it to appointments and things like that. Different services need to come to the women, certainly at the start. Have lots of stuff happening through the day to keep women occupied, to get them involved. There needs to be staff around during the day and at night 'cos I also know that's it's sometimes at night time, the drugs get into your head and you just need somebody there and then.
Most of all you need people who are genuinely interested in helping these women.
I was all about my kids until it all went wrong. I'm kind of still estranged from them but we are working on that. My life is changing and I'm getting back to the mum they once knew.
I signed up for college and I started my course. I've got my teeth done and I've got into a new relationship. All that's happened in less than six months.
I'm really happy, things are positive for me, they're moving on. I feel better in myself and I now feel like there's hope.