Woman who spent a year in a brothel shares her experience

JPCT 28-05-12 S12221358V Streetlight feature. -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 28-05-12 S12221358V Streetlight feature. -photo by Steve Cobb

Louisa spent about a year working in a brothel and she has exclusively told her story to The County Times as the paper highlights the valuable work of Streetlight.

The 30-year-old, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was in a desperate situation when she became an escort.

She said: “I had quite a poor childhood and in a way that set me up for making some bad choices.

“I had been sexually abused as a child and grew up with a lack of self worth. I was seven or eight. It does change how you see sex and relationships. You are able to separate sex from relationships more easily.

“I was quite promiscuous in my teens. It really wasn’t anything to me.

“I had a breakdown when I was 19 and I was in hospital for two months, but I hadn’t had enough help with benefits, so I got into rent arrears with the hostel I was in.

“At the time, it seemed like the end of the world. I had some issues with drugs as well.

“Then I bumped into a friend who had got involved with [escorting].”

Louisa said it seemed the perfect solution to her problems at the time, she said. “It supported my lifestyle of drugs and I needed to keep taking drugs because I didn’t know how to cope without them.”

In 2001 she began working for a man who had several brothels around north Sussex and over a year she had clients in areas including Horsham and Southwater.

She said: “It was a brothel in Charlwood, which got shut down in 2007-8. The owner was sent to prison.

“He was in his seventies and he ran it from his home quite near to a school.

“He had another house in Horley where he would house some of the girls. It was at that house I met my friend and found out what she was doing.

“The first place I went to was in Crawley. He would always drive me. I had calls to Horsham and Southwater.

“Usually I would have two or three calls a night. Sometimes it could be more depending on how many were working.

“It was like a menu. They would choose the sort of girl they were after - hair colour, age and some girls would get chosen more often than others.

“I think twice I remember there being organised by somebody’s employers to do it as the work ‘party’.

“There’s violence as well. In that sort of situation what is rape and what’s not is blurred. I knew a couple of girls who came back with bruises.

“It’s definitely happening. It’s organised and it’s prolific. You can pick up the phone and within an hour or so get someone.”

In 2002 Louisa made the decision to get out of prostitution and despite a long waiting list, was offered a place at a therapy unit.

More than ten years on she is now happily married with two boys.

But she said it has been a long journey rebuilding her life and when she met her now-husband she realised there were emotions she still needed to deal with.

“[When you recover] there are quite a few personal issues, such as boundaries with men. I didn’t feel safe anymore because I had taken my mask off.

“Sex and love were completely separate things. When I had sex, I realised I didn’t like it.

“There are still things I am dealing with, but I feel I’m in a good place now.”