I fell into the sex trade after being raped at 16 – it took years for me to realise it was abuse | The Sun
STEPPING inside the apartment, I saw the man who had booked me as an escort with his back to me, watching football on the TV.
Surrounded by empty takeaway boxes and crisp packets, he didn’t say hello or make the small talk that men who paid me for sex usually did.
Feeling intimidated, I undressed in his filthy bathroom, then walked back to him.
The closer I got, the more I could smell him – like he hadn’t washed for days.
He unbuckled his belt for the oral sex he’d booked me for and I tried to hide my disgust, afraid of what would happen if I backed out.
Suddenly he smacked me hard across the face and tried to rape me.
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I struggled to get away, but he pulled a fistful of my hair so hard, I couldn’t breathe, then forced himself on me. Afterwards, I sat in my car, completely numb. How did I end up here?
Growing up in Dublin, I had an ordinary, middle-class upbringing with a loving family. But then my normal childhood changed forever when I was raped at 16.
I’d been drinking with friends in a park, when a boy I’d met that night led me to a secluded area. We kissed before I passed out, and when I woke up, he was attacking me.
I didn’t report him or tell anybody about it; instead I minimised it and tried to ignore what had happened.
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Shortly afterwards, my friends and I were having a laugh over personal ads men had placed in the back of a local magazine, looking for sex – and I decided to secretly text some of them.
It was stupid teenage behaviour, which should have been harmless, but one man called “J” replied.
Our messages became sexual and I knew it was inappropriate, but it seemed safe as I sat texting from my bedroom in our comfortable family home.
The secrecy and attention were thrilling – I had no idea that he was grooming me.
A year later, J asked to meet me at his home. In his mid-30s, tall and skinny with ginger hair and a middle-class accent, he proceeded to hit and sexually assault me.
Having been groomed and manipulated for more than a year, I didn’t feel I had any other choice and was too afraid to object.
As I was leaving, J unexpectedly handed me £100. In a strange way, the money made me feel valued and wanted.
Over the next three years, he abused me sporadically and gave me money after, but I was too under his control to object.
Then, when I was about 19 and studying at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, J asked me to meet an elderly male “friend” of his in a hotel room.
To please him – and too scared to say no – I agreed. The man beat and violated me, then handed over £100.
In that moment, something inside me clicked – I realised I was able to endure this level of violence, that this was a job I could do.
By that point, I’d been so damaged by the rape and abuse, it seemed like a reasonable plan.
The money seemed to reinforce that I was wanted and needed. It was evidence that my sexuality was valuable.
Shortly after, I put an ad on an escort website. I know now that it was a form of self-harm.
For the next four years, I “served” ordinary, random men, though I did manage to cut J out of my life – as my confidence grew and his hold on me lessened, I began to hate him.
Some men were friendly, but the majority were entitled and rude, in their 40s and 50s, middle-class and self-assured.
Many showed an undercurrent of violence in the way they pulled my hair or smacked me, and sometimes I sensed they wanted to enact worse violence on me.
I was careful to keep them happy and look after them emotionally, as I was naked and vulnerable.
The whole time, nobody else knew what was happening.
I was studying, living with housemates, socialising with other artists and friends, going on dates with ordinary men and not telling them what I was secretly doing.
The thought of being exposed never crossed my mind – it was as though I was living two separate lives.
Then, in 2008, the attack happened. It shook me so much, it was like a switch was flicked and I realised I didn’t want to be an escort any more. I was tired of it all – the fear, the risks, the men and living part of my life in secret.
Shortly afterwards, I moved to Berlin, and got into a relationship where the sex was fun, free and easy.
After we broke up a year later, I told him a bit about my past. There was no drama and he just hugged me. I felt such relief and lightness, having shared the burden of my secret.
I moved back to Dublin and, knowing I needed help, contacted an organisation that supports women affected by prostitution, who understood and didn’t judge me.
It inspired me to begin training as a psychotherapist in 2013, and I now specialise in sexual trauma and recovery.
Helping other people who’ve gone through trauma is a great privilege for me.
Over the past eight years, I have written anonymously about that hidden part of my life.
I’ve supplied testimonies, articles, works of fiction, speeches and delivered a TEDx talk on rape.
I have also volunteered on a domestic abuse helpline and collaborated with some extraordinary people and organisations working to end the epidemic of male violence against women.
Four years ago, I began writing my memoir, Any Girl.
Before the book was published, I had to finally tell my parents, who were oblivious to what I’d been through.
I’d put off telling them numerous times, for fear they’d blame themselves. They were upset, but so supportive.
I also wanted to tell my story to set right some of the myths about the sex industry.
There are so many dramas on TV that glamorise prostitution, when the reality of the sex trade is exploitative, violating and misogynistic.
Men are knowingly having sex with traumatised women, because they don’t care – they have paid not to care, and treat the women as products, rating them online out of five stars – on appearance, value for money and satisfaction.
I’m able to feel closer to people now that I don’t have a big secret hanging over me.
I’ve had to have some difficult conversations, but my friends and family have been there for me.
I’m not in a relationship, but in the future I want to foster children in care who have struggled.
I’d also like to have a family with a loving partner – though it’s difficult for me to trust men after seeing so many deceive their wives and families so easily.
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- Any Girl: A Memoir Of Surviving Prostitution In Ireland by Mia Döring (£9.99, Hachette Ireland) is out now.
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