Archive | Personal RSS feed for this section

After 17 years being trafficked in prostitution she went blind while pregnant: Extraordinary survivor writer Christine McDonald

26 Apr

Christine McDonald, sex trafficking survivors united, cry purple, human trafficking, prostitution, blindness, disability, motherhood

Christine McDonald was trafficked in prostitution for 17 years.  Then she went blind while she was pregnant.  She has written a bold, brave book about her heartbreaking experiences, which include giving birth in shackles.  She suffered from an undiagnosed disability which played a role in her vulnerability to being trafficked.  You will love her amazing page turner of a book:  Cry Purple.

She will inspire you!  Her writing is a testament to the nightmare of prostitution and the beauty and resilience of her spirit.
Here is an excerpt:

While I was walking along, keeping a lookout for a spigot, I saw some beautiful flowers in a yard behind a fence. Knowing that the owners must have had a water hose around somewhere—and drawn by the flowers—I climbed over the fence. I walked over and began picking some of the flowers of each color: a red one, a blue one, a yellow one, and a few purple ones. The purple seemed so calm, so peaceful and rich.

As I was picking them, a man came out from the house with a phone in his hands. He yelled with an accent.

“Get away!” he said. “I’m calling the police! Get away from my house!”

“I’m sorry,” I said, and headed for the gate, with the man still yelling at me about my trespassing in his yard and picking his flowers. I still had them in my hand, and I dropped them by the fence as I exited the yard. I turned as he yelled once again that he was calling the police.

“I’m homeless,” I said.

Then it hit me that I was barefoot, that I was standing in the cool of the grass, and that his flowers were beautiful.

“I don’t see much beautiful stuff,” I said, and then I started walking again. —  Excerpt from the book Cry Purple.

Read more about Christine at her great webpage

Related articles

Glimpsing Eve

8 Apr sex trafficking survivors united, imago dei fund, half the sky, gender, religious gender hierarchy, inclusive language, patriarchy, feminism, empowerment, healing, emily nielsen jones

sex trafficking survivors united, imago dei fund, half the sky, gender, religious gender hierarchy, inclusive language, patriarchy, feminism, empowerment, healing, emily nielsen jones

“Regardless of what religious tradition it is, whether Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish or Christian, the language of religious-based gender hierarchy sounds pretty much the same:  women be “quiet” and “submissive” and accept limited roles within the family, the church, and in society.  When Christians export this mode of thinking around the world, it becomes one more rationale for keeping women in a subordinate role in society, doing most of the work but not ever “owning” their own work and finding their own path in life.”

– Emily Nielsen Jones

The followig moving and powerful post is by brilliant Emily Nielsen-Jones, founder of the Imago Dei Fund.  She discusses the beauty and spiritual resilience of women in the face of violence and inequality.  Many sex trafficking survivors have felt judgment and exclusion by religious institutions, even though many of us seek (and often find) nourishment there, so I was very grateful to read this brave discussion.  It will inspire you!  Here’s an excerpt — you can read the entire beautiful post at Emily and her sister Julie’s blog The Women’s Liberty Bell:

As my global gender awareness continues to expand and grow, what I see in the mirror of our world is a wounded but beautiful face looking back at me.  Her name is Eve.
Who is Eve?  Not the literal, historical character some of us learned about in Sunday school, but rather who She represents in a universal, archetypal human sense: the “Mother of the Living”, the feminine face of God in our world, the collective embodiment of womankind as image-bearers of God.  Who is Eve?  I am Eve.  My daughter is Eve.  My sisters, my mother, aunts, girlfriends, female colleagues, sisters around the world, each a unique face of Eve in the world, each way more interesting than the “role” churches still teach us we should be and the body images sold to us by the media.
Eve… a female-shaped diamond with many facets… She that cannot be defined by anyone or anything externally… She knows her beauty & strength and offers it graciously to the world, even when it is undervalued & diminished…
Eve diminished: “submissive”, victimized, “lesser than”, in her place at the margins of church and organizations, Eve hidden by a veil of shame and inferiority, Eve as scape goat and whipping girl at the hands of male pride and presumption.  I see this wounded face of Eve in the subtle wounds of women raised in the church, which continues to lag behind the rest of society in working toward gender equity, and in the more egregious wounds of girls and women around the world who are victims of gender-based violence. Women have come along way but still suffer a scale of the physical, sexual and psychological violence worldwide that is mind-numbing, a pandemic humanitarian crisis that crosses every social and economic class, every religion, race and ethnicity.
Eve rising up:  strong, empowered, self-actualized, very human and very female, in her full power and glory—God-like—a feminine face of God in our world, a passionate lover, a fierce protector, a compassionate pillar holding up more than “half the sky”, inspiring leader, creator, a healing presence in our world.  Eve no longer accepting an inferior place in society, defined by men, Eve rising up to take her full place in creating a better world where all human beings can live and flourish side-by-side. In many ways, as Eve rises up, all of humanity is elevated to a more civil, higher way of being, one in which power is not power over another, but power with, power to give and receive and offer one’s gifts to the world. Some of the most interesting, capable social activists that I have met this past year are women, women who are working in their sweet spot, living out their calling in the world, empowered by their imago dei to give power and dignity to others and to work toward the betterment of humanity, woman who mirror to me the feminine heart of God, the face of Eve, the Mother of the Living.
Read more of this beautiful post here at The Women’s Liberty Bell.

Trafficking/Prostitution Survivors Inspire Each Other

20 Mar
 Trafficking/Prostitution Survivors Inspire Each Other
oscar romero, 9to20blog, survivors connect, human trafficking

"I am in the process of freedom"

I found these beautiful words on the blog of another trafficking survivor:
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
 In realizing that. This enables us to do something,
 And to do it very well.
– Oscar Romero
This survivor blogs at  I’m so moved by her bio:
I’m willing to take the risk if you are– to become uncomfortable. I’m willing …to share with you my story of being sexually trafficked right here in America, if you’re willing to listen. What I do not want however, if for this to be a story of despair– because it’s not. It’s a story of hope. There is a thrasher-filled road of healing ahead of me yes, but I am in the process of freedom. 
Related articles

A Sex Trafficking Survivor’s Letter to Her Younger Self

2 Mar

Stella Marr, my body the city, prostitution, sex work, younger self, trauma, new york, manhattan, columbia university, human trafficking, sex worker, prostitution, sexual exploitation

Dear twenty-year old Stella,

Work hard on learning to ask for help.  It’s the only way you’ll ever  break free.  No one ever does anything alone.  You don’t have to.

You’ll learn how to make the men happy.  The happier they are the nicer they treat you.  You’ll get very good at being a hooker.  But when the Johns say “baby you were born for this” that doesn’t mean its true.

Now when most men come near you  feel a stabbing at your eyes, your throat, and your gut that you know isn’t real.  You don’t want to admit it but you’re terrified.  You start, you tremble.  Your hands shake.  Think about it, you’re being stabbed a lot these days.  This is a quite reasonable reaction to being used by man after man, day after day, in this prison of a brothel.  It doesn’t mean you are so miserably flawed that you can’t do anything but prostitution.

Being sold for sex doesn’t make you subhuman.  It’s not OK for your (white) pimps to smack you and tell you they’ll kill you.

You have to work up the nerve to pay a cashier for a soda.  You’re too scared to ask that guy behind the deli counter to make you a sandwich.   This isn’t weakness, it’s biology.  Trauma changes your brain.    Your hippocampus, where you form narrative memory in the brain, shrinks.  This is a symptom of PTSD —  a neurophysiologic response to repetitive trauma –not evidence that you deserve to be in prostitution.

In the middle of the winter in the middle of the night when that guy in the Doubletree suite invites you to sit while he pours you a seltzer trust your gut and back out of there before the five guys you can’t see who are waiting in the bedroom have a chance to get between you and the door.

Being vulnerable means you’re alive.   There’s no shame in it.  It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person.  You don’t have to apologize for doing what you must to survive.

When Samantha tries to stop working for your pimp Johnny.  make her get out of the city.  Otherwise two weeks later Nicole, the madam who works with Johnny,  will show you Samantha’s diamond initial ring and tell you Johnny murdered her.  Though you’ll always hope she was lying, you doubt it.

You’ve lost all sense of the linear — time  disappeared and you felt it leave.  Now you’re living in the immediate and eternity.  It’s scary and bewildering, but you need this — you need each moment to stretch infinitely so that you can be acutely aware of each man’s tiny movements and shifts in expression,  which can reveal a threat before it happens.  This hyperawareness will save your life.  One day you’ll see this being untethered from time as a kind of grace.

When that shiny classical pianist you meet at Au Bon Pain says he wants to know everything about you don’t believe him.

A lot of what’s happening doesn’t make sense now but it will later.  That habit you have of writing poems in your mind to the beloved you haven’t met yet, as you’re riding in cabs to calls?  There’s something to it.

Your ability to perceive beauty is part of your resilience and survival.  When a man is on top of you watch the wind-swirled leaves out his window.  Seize the gusty joy you feel as you run three blocks to a bodega to buy condoms between calls at 3 AM.  When you think for a minute you see that friend,  who’s death you never got over,  standing in the brassy light under a weeping linden, be grateful.  All this has a purpose.

Being in prostitution can seem to mean you’ve lost everything you hoped to be, but that’s not true.  You’ve splintered into a million pieces, but you’re still you. You’re alive.    It’s in the spaces between those pieces where you learn to feel how other people are feeling.  It hurts so much you’re sure it’ll kill you, but it won’t.  Later when you’re out of the life it’ll be so easy to be happy.  The mundane will buoy you.

When your madam sends you to the Parker Meridien at 3 AM and you meet a British professor who says he wants to help you, believe him.  He will set you up in a beautiful condominium across from Lincoln Center that he deeds in your name.  Of course you’ll have everything to do with this — you are so “good” at being a “hooker,: so “good” at fucking that you can make a guy want to buy you a condo.  Shame is a hollow stone in the throat.

During the two years that this voracious man ‘keeps’ you as his private prostitute the condo will come to feel like a platinum trap.  But it’s still your chance to get out and heal. Take it.

After you’ve sold the condominium and are living in a graduate dorm at Columbia University, a man with eyes like blue shattered glass will sit beside you in the cafeteria.  When he begins to speak you know he’s the unmet beloved you’ve been writing poems to all these years.  You’ll try to run away, but he won’t let you.  Fourteen years later the two of you will be hiking through pink granite outcroppings with your Labrador retriever.  You’ll  feel like the freest woman in the world.

One afternoon when you’re twenty-one you’ll be at the Museum of Metropolitan of Art with your best friend Gabriel, who’s a hustler, a male prostitute.  When he says you ‘remind him of his death’, don’t lash back.  Even though he told you the doctor said he didn’t have that rare new virus named AIDS, it would behoove you to realize he’s still coughing.

Stop thinking about your own hurt.  Don’t lash back with that phrase your mother’s said to you so many times  –” I hope you die a slow death.”  Don’t tell Gabriel  you never want to see him again and storm out of the  sculpture gallery.   Or it will be the last time you see him.  Gabriel will die of AIDS five months later.  When he said you reminded him of ‘his own death’ he was trying to tell you he was dying.   You’ll regret what you said for the rest of your life.  But even more you’ll regret running away from his friendship.

Say forgive me.

Say I love you.

Stay connected.



P.S.  I’m sure my mom learned to say “I hope you die a slow death” from her dad.

This is a tribute to Cheryl Strayed‘s transcendent letter to her younger self.  Her letter’s form gave me a pitcher that I filled with my life.  A big shout out to Dublin Call Girl who’s thank you letter to punters is already a classic.


20 Feb
stella marr, human trafficking, sex trafficking, sex work, prostitution, sung, new york city, manhattan, manhattan call girl, prostitution

Sung's kindness gave me a momentary home

Sung’s kindness gave me a momentary home

This is the prologue to my memoir My Body the City:  The Secret Life of a Manhattan Callgirl. 

You don’t know me but I love you. I’m the irresistible force and the immovable object. I’m stubborn, so I’ll always be here. They tore out my tongue, but I learned to re-grow it. Now I will always speak.

It is 3:00 in the morning, my lunch hour, and I’ve just stepped out of a cab at 10th Street and 6th Avenue. A black velvet rain is smothering the city, icy gleams threading the air. I walk toward a fruit stand that seems to float above the sidewalk in a cloud of light. When I blink there’s a stabbing pain behind my eye, and I can feel his fist pound my cheekbone like it’s happening again.

The plastic curtains protecting the produce out front are steamed from the cold. I glance up to the bulbous security mirror which distorts my face. My eye and neck are swollen red and turning greenish-yellow. I feel my hair sticking to my forehead and pull my fingers through the dripping tangles that hang to my waist. But I’m used to going around the city beaten up.

Inside there are so many bins of flowers it makes an indoor garden. I bend into the freesia to breathe their thick fragrance, and in the same motion grab a smooth green apple from a wood crate on the floor. I head back to the coolers. Opening the cool glass door, I exhale with a long sigh so I can watch my breath make a cloud as it hits the chilled air. I gather up a six pack of Diet Pepsi and a coffee yogurt, walk back and set it on the worn wood counter. I feel caved in with shame as I lift my bruised face to the tall man at the cash register. His eyes are deep and warm like licorice made with pepper. His plastic nametag says Sung. He hands me my bag and my change.

He reaches into a bin of red roses, selects the most lush, and hands it to me with a bow. When Sung bows he sends strength. I take the rose and it feels important, as if I’m accepting the folded flag at a military funeral. “

You’re a nice lady,” he says. “Your life should be nice.”

His voice makes me feel like a rug being shaken out in fresh air. Tears warm my eyes.

He grabs two expensive handmade caramels from a basket by the cash register and reaches across the counter to throw them in my bag. When I hold out a crumpled ten dollar bill to show I’ll pay for them he puts his hands behind his back, smiles slowly, and shakes his head ‘no.’ He sits on a plastic crate and starts marking bags of walnuts with a price gun. In the fluorescent light his wide cheekbones shine like they’re wet.


Now a man with thick tufts of hair on his knuckles walks into the store, and I see—no feel—his cock and thighs projected into the space between us. I feel a stabbing, like knives, at my eyes, my throat, my gut. It happens when most men come near. I know the knives I feel aren’t real, but their stabbing hurts. I fight this by trying to fill my body with peace, so it rises from my skin like perfume.

The brutality I sense around me can seem like the strongest part of the city, a riptide always about to drag you under. I close my eyes and breathe in the thick scent of cabbage and orange rinds. I exhale. I want to purify my body so the stabbing disappears. But it never disappears, not completely, which is why I must tell you my story. How I got to this fruit stand in the middle of the night, reaching my wet, shaking hands to take a slightly bruised rose.


After this every time I saw Sung at the fruit stand, he gave me a rose.

How a Call Girl Feels When She’s “Reviewed” Online

17 Feb

human trafficking prostitution dublin call girl sex work sex positive feminism

My friend and colleague Dublin Call Girl has a blazingly honest new post up on her blog.  It’s about how she felt when Johns/punters reviewed her online.  This is a revolting practice where online “escort” sites encourage the men to post reviews of each  girl after they’ve used her.  It’s not new.  Even before the internet there used to be creepy “adult entertainment” news sheets (kind of like today’s backpage) where men wrote these sorts of reviews.  But the internet has increased the impact of this dehumanizing practice on prostitutedwomen’s lives.  Here’s an excerpt:

This is another review, from someone else, that worries me. This is hardly unique, it took me two seconds to find, there are hundreds of this type (and worse) of review. This is the really sinister side of reviews. Men will visit a girl who clearly, and the men admit this quite openly, doesn’t want to be there, is unhappy, is reluctant. And they review her anyway. They review her in such a way that completely and cleverly avoids any consideration for her, or why she is ‘lifeless’ or why she is ‘mechanical’ or whatever else. Instead of wondering why and how the girl is in this position of unwillingly having sex for money, they are pissed off, indignant about their wasted money. This is what paying does; it takes the responsibility out of the punter’s hands. It takes the human out of both sides.


45 Minutes




First I chose Vicky based on her pics and Favourites. I fancied a bit of (A).   Location was easy to find and excellent directions given.When the door opened there stood a pretty young lady but not in my opinion the girl in the Photo’s.Smaller not as slim but nice none the less.Then It started to go down hill. Paid the €180 (20) for A.Guess what she diden’t want to do A. “i don’t like” was what i got.Got down to biz anyway but there was no life in this girl at all.  I’m more French than she is. East European at a guess.

Got a bit of OWO but she kept stopping to wipe yer man with a piece ofKitchen paper. Sex was like riding an ironing board.

Kissing was OK but she kept turning away most times i tried to kiss her.

This girl just was not into it no matter how hard i tried. Got more entertainment from the radio on in the backround.

Half way through round 2 she announced that time was up. Paid for an hour and was in and out in 45mins.

Waste of time and money which is a bummer when you save for ages for this and don’t get the chance to punt very often.

How a Holocaust Survivor Can Help Prostitution Survivors

11 Feb
The amazing Primo Levi

My Hero

Primo Levi is amazing.  Many trafficking/prostitution survivors I know read him again and again.  We need him and somehow we find our way to him.

Primo (he will always be ‘first’ to me) has been necessary for my intellectual survival.  I’m not drawing any direct parallels between the concentration camp and what I experienced in prostitution (though in many ways it was an underground Gulag), but Primo defines the denial of evil and how evil molds and changes the people it preys upon better than anyone I’ve ever read.

I’m so thankful to him, for his amazing clarity, honesty and courage, for having the guts to write the truth, when it wasn’t what people wanted to hear.  For going beyond his outrage, pain, despair, to examine like the scientist he was what happens to people  when they’re subjected to unfathomable violence, fear, loss and pain.

From the Drowned and the Saved:

“The well-known euphemisms (‘final solution,’ ‘special treatment,’ the very term Einsatzkommando literally ‘prompt-employment unit, disguised a frightful reality) were used not only to deceive the victims and prevent a defensive reaction on their part, they were also meant, within the limits of the possible, to prevent public opinion, and those sections of the army not directly involved, from finding out what was happening in all the territories occupied by the Third Reich.” “The entire history of the brief “millennial Reich” can be read as a war against memory, an Orwellian falsification of memory, falsification of reality, negation of reality.

All Hitler’s biographers … agree on the flight from reality which marked his last years, especially beginning with the first Russian winter. He had forbidden and denied his subjects any access to the truth, contaminating their morality and their memory; but, to a degree which gradually increased, attaining complete paranoia in the Bunker, he barred the path of truth to himself as well. Like all gamblers, he erected around himself a stage set of superstitious lies and in which he ended up believing with the same fanatical faith that he demanded from every German. His collapse was not only a salvation for mankind but also a demonstration of the price to be paid when one dismembers the truth.”

The falsification Levi describes above reminds me a lot of the many lies and euphemisms society and the sex industry use to hide the degradation and violence of prostitution.  These untruths dehumanize the prostituted class.

Good John, Bad John?

9 Feb

Survivor Angel K’s honesty and guts always leave me breathless.  Check out her hard-hitting new post at her blog Surviving Prostitution and Addiction.  Here’s an excerpt

You kind of think, what d’you want, a fucking medal because you’ve chosen not to be an out and out sadist today? So you didn’t shout at me and beat me up. Hardly a qualification for sainthood. Perhaps you asked me how I am or why I’m here, in a pretence of care (you don’tactually want to know), to make yourself feel better. It demonstrates either stupidity or a wilful ignorance of the obvious, that anything I say in this context will be lies for your benefit, to appease your conscience, such as it is. Disobedience and backchat is potentially deadly as a prostitute so I have to say what you want to hear. So I’ll tell you I’m here cos I love sex, and I love talking to you and I love being here, love your company and your cock, and pretend I’m not here for the money for the addiction and because of the mental hell caused by the abuse I suffered in my past.

Read more

You might kill me

7 Feb

I pity you

though you might kill me


I am a piano and the keys

at my crotch are seaglass

Worn away by pound

by touch


Manhattan makes wraiths

of women like me

At 4 AM this January morning


I’ve searched the interstellar dark

even though I’ve heard

Once torn away

like lost summer nights

Time won’t come back.


Time lived between my legs

Till they ripped Time out,

leaving me

Only the Immediate

and Eternity


In August the wanting sex

from stoop-sitting boys

pulses rhythmic as traffic

Hyacinth kisses shiver in thick

shadows behind their knees


Now Ice rusts their throats


How many voices are impaled on the

razorwire strangling vacant lots?


How many murdered girls cry out

from the park’s dark clarinet?


These nights I walk through ice,

dragging sleep meant for men impaled

by the view out their window

Men drowned in constellations

shot dead as they fled the sky


Tongues wait in the

fire escape shadows

Torn out like Time

they’ll never speak


I am a piano and the

keys at my crotch

are sidewalks

jellyfished with brine


I knock hoping you won’t open

but if you do I hope you won’t

see the murdered clarinets

in the dark behind my teeth


You’re wearing the thick terry robe

barely tied

Your room moisturized with the luxury

of a gardenia holding absence


You give me your fear and

your voice’s glass dust

in a box

You will make me  open carefully


I can tell by your eyes

you’ve seen the vacant buildings’

toothless mouths


I can tell by the tense of your lips

you’ve heard the murdered girls cry

As vacuumous cold

hides thick within your cheeks


The dullness at the windows

is all that remains

of the flypaper that once wrapped you,

That you can’t rinse away

from your sleep


I am a mirror that wants to incarnate

All  the tenderness

We’ve never found before it smashes


The closer you come the more

Space inside me explodes

against my throat


You live in my thighs and aching fingers

a skyscraper of  lack

I rub serpentines into your shoulders

You rub money into my hips

Your pubic hair sticks to my cheek


Pinning me to the mattress

Is how you refuse to use a condom


This darkness is not as light to us

though sometimes

I see light bubbling

from my breath

During my dives

in the Night underneath you


Fling me across the bed

in rips of shipwrecked sail

Till I cling in curling seaweed at your feet


I Implore you


Throw me back into the Oceanic night

Which is my only Freedom from you


Where I wait for  the first

panted breaths between stars

And gulp cold-throated rain


This is a sketch of what it feels like to be trafficked in prostitution in Manhattan