Former Vic sex worker tells of horrors

Former sex worker 'Rebecca' says her time in the industry damaged her mind and body.
Former sex worker 'Rebecca' says her time in the industry damaged her mind and body.

When a man tried to strangle her to satisfy a fetish, Rebecca did nothing to stop him.

Feeling she was in a life-or-death situation the young woman kept quiet and hoped the moment would pass.

"I just sort of submitted," the former sex worker, whose real name is withheld for her safety, told AAP.

"I've heard worse."

Rebecca entered sex work prompted by a personal crisis and found work at a large Melbourne escort agency.

"At the beginning it was liberating because you had all these men's attention," she said.

"But then it gets to the point where you physically wear out and your whole being becomes emotionally worn out because you are being used."

Escorting through an agency is different to brothel work, where clients come in for sexual services. It involves "call-outs" where sex workers are sent to the client's location - often a hotel room.

Rebecca's pay and the clients she met were determined by the agency. She worked about four days a week servicing up to 10 men per shift.

The money, usually $200 an hour, was more than she could earn elsewhere.

A driver would take her to and from jobs, but he was not there for security.

She did not make a report to police about the strangling incident because she was scared of the agency madam.

"Men predominantly just abuse because there's no parameters of safety," Rebecca said.

"That's the attitude in this industry. It's literally just whatever goes."

Rebecca said she knew of sex workers who had been violently treated but did nothing about it and stayed quiet.

"I've heard about near-death situations," she said.

"There's no avenue to talk about it."

Rebecca left sex work after becoming romantically involved with a client. She is now a single mother living on welfare.

She would not recommend sex work, citing trauma, physical danger and high pay which clouds judgment.

Victorian brothel worker of five years, 'Emma', has a different view.

She said sex work is one of the best decisions she's ever made.

"The friendships that I have made and the community that I have found with other sex workers has been really amazing," Emma told AAP.

But at the same time, she has "complicated feelings" about the work and has suffered from peoples' judgment.

"I lost a close friend because she didn't like the work that I was doing," Emma said.

"I was kicked out of my house.

"I go to the doctor with a broken arm and they try to give me an STI test."

Burnout was a common industry complaint, especially when doing "high volume" work, she added.

"Dealing with men all the time at work is often difficult. They're like toddlers with hard-ons."

Emma said the money from sex work was wonderful given many in the industry are "locked out" of mainstream work because of gender, sexuality, migration status or disability.

Emma supports decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria and believes it will help the most vulnerable people in the sex worker community.

A review into Victoria's sex industry got underway earlier this week and will produce a set of recommendations to government by August to help shape a legislative re-write of laws next year.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

Australian Associated Press