Question: Why would a nice church lady discuss prostitution on her blog?
Answer: To support author Ruth Jacobs’s mission to dispel the “happy hooker” myth and expose the “soul-destroying” reality of prostitution.
I recently read Ruth Jacobs’s book In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl and her blog, Voices of Prostitution Survivors. To be honest, I half expected to find lurid pornography masquerading as social commentary. Instead, I found authentic reflections from “Q” and other real women caught up in the trade (often as very young girls). I was so moved by their experiences that I contacted Ruth, and she graciously agreed to answer my questions.
Ruth, what is your interest in writing about women in prostitution?
I feel I have an affinity with them.
- 75% of women who work as prostitutes have been sexually and physically abused as children – I was sexually assaulted as a child.
- 70% of women in prostitution have been raped multiple times – I have been raped twice.
- 67% of women in prostitution meet the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder – I have suffered with post traumatic stress disorder for much of my life.
- 95% of women in prostitution have issues with problematic drug use – Until my mid-twenties, I was a drug addict and alcoholic.
In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl is just what it says: a transcript of an interview in which a woman you call “Q” describes how her profession affects her life. How did you happen to meet and interview Q?
I was rather wayward in my teens and early twenties and mixed in London’s underworld. That is how I met Q. Whilst studying, I wrote an essay on women in crime and noted their lack in certain crimes and their existence in prostitution. When it came to choose a topic for my dissertation, prostitution was the obvious choice. Firsthand accounts are the most important when studying a topic such as this, so I asked Q and two other women who worked as call girls in London if they would be willing to be video interviewed.
Why was Q willing to speak so candidly to you?
Q and I were very close friends. I am sure that is what enabled her to show all facets of her personality, and the contradiction of thoughts and feelings she had about working as a prostitute.
In the interview, Q mentions that she started out as a streetwalker before getting into the higher paid job of call girl, or hired escort. Just to clarify – are either of those activities legal in the United Kingdom? Was Q ever jailed?
Some activities relating to prostitution are legal and some are not. Streetwalking and soliciting for business I am sure is a crime here (in UK). Q was never jailed during the years we were friends. She may have received a criminal record relating to streetwalking but I didn’t know her when she was working the streets, so am not aware of that.
Reading the book, I was struck by how matter-of-factly Q spoke about her experiences. Very low-key, not like a person looking to blame anyone or dramatize her situation.
I think that showed the numbness she had gained over time. She was first forced into prostitution at the age of fifteen. At that age, men seeing her were raping a child. She was sexually abused as a child before this too. It is common for dissociation to occur when such trauma is endured.
It was chilling to read what Q described as the “fun” part of her job: playing a role.
In order not to fall apart and see the hell in which she was living, Q had to create a false self with a false set of beliefs. That is what enabled her to carry on. That was the psychological damage done to her from child sex abuse. Being forced into prostitution whilst still a child and working in prostitution alone can have that effect. There is a blog post entitled Denial written by another London call girl who we were friends with at the same time, which might help better explain why she referred to the work as ‘fun’ whilst also referring to it as feeling like she was being raped and it being soul-destroying.
What do you think “soul” meant to her?
I wouldn’t like to guess what ‘soul’ meant to Q. But by the term ‘soul-destroying’, I think she meant it took away who she was and another self was created in order to deal with and live in that life.
Did faith in a higher power play a part in Q’s experience?
Q and I never discussed religion or a higher power.
How much input did you have in editing Q’s interview for publication?
I chose not to edit the transcript from the video interview. If Q was still alive, I would have edited then asked for her approval before publishing. As that was not possible, I felt it would be wrong to change her words. The title is In Her Own Words… and for that to be true, the words in that book need to be Q’s and not my interpretation or rephrasing of them.
You said Q died before the book came out. What can you share about her death and her life during the intervening years?
I can’t share much. A year after the interview, I stopped taking drugs and in order to do that, I had to let go of all my friends who were still using. I lost contact with Q for many years until a few years ago and we were going to meet up again, but we left it too late and she died. To protect her anonymity for the sake of her family, I won’t discuss how she died or what I know of her life since the years when we were close.
Other survivors of prostitution have related their stories on your blog. How do you make connections with them?
Through Facebook, Twitter and their blogs.
I can’t imagine the courage it would take to relive your private hell in order to write about it, let alone to come forward and allow the world to read about it.
These brave women have been through hell and back. There are many people who deny or diminish the existence of human trafficking or are unaware it exists, and there are many people who are unaware of the damage of prostitution. These women share their stories so that they can expose the truth in the hope it will educate as well as benefit others.
Author Andrew Peters, who first called your work to my attention, said it made him feel ashamed to be a man. (Not saying he’s ever been personally involved – let’s make that perfectly clear!) But what about women? Like the mother mentioned by one of your web contributors, who constantly called her daughter a whore until the girl ran away and ended up becoming one.
I think the subject runs so deep, it is hard to say. One of the main links is abuse in childhood, sexual and physical, for women in prostitution. This abuse is more often from a male, but of course, there will be some mothers or female caregivers who play a part in abusing children too. It is also of paramount importance after a child discloses abuse, that the child is believed and supported and loved by their caregiver. If this is not forthcoming, although the mother/ female caregiver might not have been the actual abuser, they have played a part in further damaging the child.
My rural American community is a far cry from the big metropolis of London and its high-priced call girls. But streetwalkers ply their trade in nearby towns, and I imagine some women my husband and I see in our local bar are “paid dates.” Do you have any information on prostitution in rural settings?
My study only involved women in London. In my research of books available, there wasn’t anything specific about prostitution in rural communities.
Some of my readers may be all too familiar with the conditions of prostitution and situations like those described by Q and your Voices of Prostitution Survivors contributors. But I’m betting most readers are as ignorant as I was. Now that you’ve raised our awareness, what can we do to help?
There are a number of charities working to help women exit prostitution and also to stop human trafficking. Those charities could always use support. There are links to many of these on the useful links section of my website. (Scroll all the way to the bottom of the home page. The list of links is on the right side.)
I understand you put your money where your mouth is, donating book proceeds to charity.
All the royalties from In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl go to Beyond the Streets, which is a charity that helps women exit prostitution. To find out more about them, their website is at http://www.beyondthestreets.org.uk/
Now let’s talk about Ruth Jacobs the novelist. Tell us about your fiction projects.
I am writing two series of novels, Soul Destruction and Soul Destruction Diary. I draw inspiration for both series from my research into prostitution in the late 1990s and from the women I’ve interviewed. The first book in the Soul Destruction series, entitled Soul Destruction, will be published in 2013 by Caffeine Nights.
I love the motto of Caffeine Nights Publishing: “Fiction aimed at the heart and the head.” That seems to suit your work! What’s the plot of Soul Destruction about?
That story follows a character named Shelley Hansard, a heroin addicted, crack psychotic, London call girl who gets the opportunity to take revenge on a client who raped her. Although I see prostitution as abuse and soul-destroying, in this book Soul Destruction doesn’t only apply to prostitution. I won’t say more than that, in case I give too much away.
Soul Destruction Diary can currently be read on my website. It is written in the voice of Nicole O’Connell, Shelley Hansard’s closest friend in Soul Destruction. Nicole is a call girl from London and the first diary charts Nicole’s time in Sydney, Australia where she travels in order to escape her heroin addiction.
I’ve read excerpts of Soul Destruction Diary. Not for the prudish or faint of heart, but you write it with deep understanding of Nicole’s interior life.
Do you do short fiction as well?
I have had a short story, “Protection,” published online and plan to write some more shorts in the next year or two. But my main focus is on the Soul Destruction series and the Soul Destruction Diary series. Soul Destruction begins in 1997 and I started it then so I could bring it right up to date.
Have you had formal writing training?
I haven’t had formal training but I’ve had years of practice. I’ve also read a great number of books on writing and the different aspects of writing such as plot and structure, description, dialogue etc.
Which aspects of writing do you have to work harder at?
I have to work harder at adding description. I think this is because of the way that I write. I watch the characters in my head and report on what they are doing and saying. I need to look around more at their surroundings to ensure I add enough description for the readers to build a picture in their head.
Do you have a group of fellow writers who support and critique your writing?
I don’t belong to a formal writing group but I have made many new writing friends via Facebook and joined some writing groups on there. There are two authors who have kindly critiqued short stories for me. For my first novel, I gave it to friends and family to read and asked for their honest feedback and of course, to check for any errors as well.
Do you write for your private benefit, like journaling or personal poetry?
I used to write poetry when I was a young teenager but very rarely now. I don’t journal because with my job, children and writing novels, I don’t have time. I have two children and work a day job in information security recruitment.
What is information security recruitment?
I find jobs for people who are specialists in information security.
Then you and I have something in common besides writing. I spent several years of my career with the New York State Department of Labor as an employment services interviewer, placing low-income applicants into jobs and training. Most had criminal records or other difficult circumstances to overcome. I’m sure many had been abused, though it didn’t come up in our conversations.
Ruth, I’m always interested to learn about other people’s faith. If you’re willing, please tell us about your faith/religion/spiritual beliefs.
That’s rather complicated and it changes from day to day. Sometimes I have a belief in a higher power, but when something terrible happens that belief can fade and die.
I’ve ridden that faith/doubt roller coaster too. Do you find that your faith connects with your writing?
I don’t think there is any connection to my writing and faith. However, I will say that certain things have happened to do with my writing, which I believe are not pure coincidence but have been put in place by a higher power.
Can you give us an example?
One example is that just as I was beginning my blog, I found myself sitting opposite a young woman on a train into London who looked like my character Nicole O’Connell from Soul Destruction Diary. After much deliberation, I asked if I could take a picture of her, and explained what it was for. She agreed but the picture didn’t turn out well with the backdrop of the train. However, she suggested I add her on Facebook and that as she was at drama school, she had a portfolio of pictures that I could use for the blog. It turned out her portfolio was perfect for what I needed. Later, when I was making a trailer for In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl, I needed different pictures. Amazingly, she had just done a photo shoot, which again was perfect for that particular requirement.
I think my meeting you across the Atlantic Ocean is another divine appointment! (Today, November 2, is All Souls’ Day. Coincidence? I think not!)
Now, lock your modesty in the closet for a moment, and share something wonderful you’ve achieved.
I am just delighted that after over twenty years of writing novels, I have actually completed one and it is going to be published. In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl has already received a number of 5-star reviews, including a 5-star review from Stephen Leather, one of the UK’s most successful writers and the author of more than 30 bestsellers.
Congratulations, that’s fantastic! Now for the other side of the coin. What about disappointments or struggles?
Too many in my personal life to mention. In terms of writing, there were many rejections before I received the offer to publish Soul Destruction from Caffeine Nights.
You’ve answered my nosey questions very generously, Ruth! Where can people learn more or get in touch with you?
To find out more about me and my Soul Destruction series of novels and also to read the stories bravely shared by women who have survived prostitution, please visit my website at www.soul-destruction.com.
Ruth Jacobs on Twitter http://twitter.com/RuthFJacobs
Ruth Jacobs on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/rujacobs
Soul Destruction on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SoulDestructionSeries
Soul Destruction on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/RuthFJacobs/videos
In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl is available to download from Amazon UK at http://amzn.to/P992RY for 77p and from Amazon US at http://amzn.to/Qo3SZD for 99c. It is also available worldwide.
Ruth, I so appreciate your taking the time to join us and sharing so openly. Your words will be a blessing, in ways we’ll probably never know. Thank you!
Readers, I’m glad you stopped by, too. Please leave comments and questions for Ruth in the comments box. Thanks!
If you are a first-time commenter, your comment won’t go “live” until I approve it. Please don’t let that discourage you from commenting! I’ll moderate as promptly as I can. – Linda