I was at the club when they announced the lockdown on TV. This omen of an End of Days of sorts had already been floating around, and our clients nervously awaited it. This impatience visibly increased the more the media focused on COVID-19. It wasn’t only the media talking about it; it’s all we talked about too. Although we were sick and tired of being stuck here 8 days a week, deep down, all we felt was fear at the idea that all public places might be forced to close in a matter of hours.

That’s how it all started, just like the worst of nightmares that automatically begins as soon as we shut our eyes to find rest.

“The clients always have the upper hand”

We went into quarantine very reluctantly, our hearts full of fear and our pockets empty due to a past few weeks that had not been too profitable. Now several weeks into quarantine, I can confirm that my fears were warranted and my income has dwindled. Even though I do a few in-calls every week, I still have to fight for a fair rate and the clients always have the upper hand; it’s as if they know how financially fragile we are.

In an effort to receive some help, I text some of my “regulars” under the pretext of wanting to see how they’re doing, but most of them are with their families. One of them offered to bring me a load of groceries, but my boyfriend, who is in charge of my finances, sees this as an insult. It’s not like the money I make goes towards food anyway, but rather, I’m seeing more and more that it’s for the drugs and alcohol that my boyfriend so badly needs.

In order to keep the money coming in, he has threatened me into understanding that I need to comply with whatever request my new clientele might have. I don’t even want to get into describing all the things I’ve had to do. It’s the same for the other girls too: we need to do anything and everything in order to continue making money.

“It was too intense for me”

One week into the lockdown, I got fed up and refused a client’s request. It was too intense for me and that day, I lacked the strength to separate myself from my body, a superpower of mine that I habitually use to help me endure the worst of the worst.

When my boyfriend found out what happened, he wasn’t amused and he gave me the worst beating he’d ever given me. The next day, I couldn’t meet with any clients because my face was covered in bruises, so he beat me even harder.

This has quickly become my new routine. I feel decimated and I have no contact with the outside world. It feels as if the only things that exist in this world are clients and beatings.

The other girls temporarily living with us (two of them are constantly moving to different houses, but always end up back here) are all in the same state as me.

I never thought I’d say this, but I can’t wait for the club to reopen so I can finally have a break from all the violence that has become part of my everyday life.

Help for the victims

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought about many changes in the lives of women who are victims of sexual exploitation. Establishments of the sex industry have closed their doors to the public and the majority of prostiutional activities are taking place in the houses and apartments where victims of sexual exploitation are living.

Moreover, girls and women who are stuck in the sex industry are quarantined with their boyfriends, who they also refer to as their managers or bookers. They are actually their pimps.

Having access to support and resources is increasingly difficult, as many shelters and homes are not accepting new women due to the risks related to COVID-19. The Way Out received an appallingly lower call volume of potential applicants during the lockdown. We continue, however, to follow up with former participants and we’re taking calls from direct referrals.

We remain a resource available to victims during the time of quarantine and our entire team is working to prepare for the “post pandemic”.

Consequently, we believe the need will be even greater once the quarantine is lifted. The women who are forced into the sex industry are currently quarantined with their pimps, which drastically increases the presence of domestic violence. Prostitutional activity has also evolved, as supply and demand have brought about changes in the market.

We want to remind you that our help line for victims of sexual exploitation is still open. The team at The Way Out is wholeheartedly with you in this time of crisis.

We can offer you a Way Out!