Dedicated to Jennifer Kempton, and all other exited folks who left us too early.
I am writing this in a shock, deep grief and complex trauma.
Last week, I heard about the terrible early death of Jennifer Kempton, who as an exited woman founded Survivor’s Ink.
She was a great warrior, who give back dignity and hope to so many exited folks.
I hardly knew except through the network of exited women and their allies, but her death has pull out all my buried grief.
I want to write to one of the most important reason so many exited folks die young or before they can reach a place of peace.
This is the almost total lack of proper exiting programmes anywhere.
When the prostituted exit for the most part, they are left to fend for themselves.
They may receive coffee and condoms.
If very lucky they may get short-term generalised counselling, may get help with re-housing or finding a job.
But it is usual that any decent help is formed and provided by mainly exited women who have no proper funds and do their work whilst living with extreme trauma.
Even in countries with the Nordic Model, there are no real long-term specialist exiting programmes for the prostituted.
This is killing us everyday – we may commit suicide, we can be murdered by pimps and their followers, may die from lack of knowing how to fend for ourselves.
Our deaths is a constant reminder to all who say they back the Nordic Model to do much much more.
I cannot live with the constant grief of the prostituted who manage to exit being abandoned.
When we exit prostitution, that is just beginning of a long struggle back to personhood, back to dignity, back to self-respect and back to a life that can made safe.
It is a rebirth, and like a new-born we do not know or understand the rules of the “real” world.
I remember not knowing how to shop, for punters brought so much.
I had no idea how to pay bills, how to look for somewhere safe to , look for work.
I had no idea how to be an adult, as I still carried my damaged child and teenager in me.
I was drowning, but I received no help, no support – I had to fight every inch of the way to get back some kind of real life.
This is not good enough.
We have to fight even as we carry millions of demons reminding how pimps and punters made us sub- human.
We have known torture, we have known serial rapes, we have known imprisonment, we have known too many disappearances and deaths.
But when we exit, we are meant to just get on with it and not make too many demands.
At the same time, if we choose to be open about our past – there is the constant demand that we tell our stories over and over and over – with no interest that it may send us back into hell every time you ask that.
Worse is the demand that we give evidence that you choose whether to believe or not.
This is done with no knowledge of how extreme trauma can lead to fragmented memory, or how we survive by blocking out.
Our words come out non-linear with many gaps and silences.
Our words are the words that you want to know.
So as we speak, our words are only heard for what you already think – not the depths of the truths we try to express.
My grief is making this very hard to write, coz so much of my soul wants to deaden what I feel and think.
I just know I want exiting to be taken seriously.
We need specialist long-term for exited people.
Not counselling for eight weeks, then everything is somehow fixed.
Not counselling that is just connected harm reduction, but keeping the prostituted trapped.
No, there should be training to how the prostituted react to extreme complex trauma, training in disassociation, and training in listening to the gaps and silences.
This need to be offered whenever the exited person ask for it. It can be several years till trauma becomes something that need to be tackled.
I cannot write much more, just leave you with this.
Know those of us who have exited the sex trade are strong, grateful to be alive, truth-tellers and have an evil sense of humour.
But we still live with extreme trauma, demons that follow us and confusion.
Do not take us for granted, if you really care fight for long-term specialist exiting programmes everywhere.