-Do you know women who have returned to Prostitution?
-Clear! All the time. I relapsed myself three times. People must understand that prostitution is terrible but for me, a victim of trafficking being almost a child, was all I knew.
There are several ways to tell the life of Melanie Thompson. Here, in front, she has a bright smile and long, sharp nails like those of the singer Rosalía. At 22 she is already a recognized speaker, a student of a master's degree in Social Work at Hunter College of the University of New York. Live in your own apartment in Queens. And here is his splendid present.
Of the 800 women who attend an association per year, only two leave the street
The dark past, which brings you back flashbacks, includes a kidnapping with 12 years, when prostituted in the street and through websites. They did not miss her much at home. Melanie grew up in a broken home, with a father who abused her mother. They arrested her, sent her to a reformatory and left the street. For a while. Her adolescence is a round trip to prostitution in the corners of Queens. He returned "with 15, with 16 and with 18", count running. And it came out again two years ago, with 20. Overcoming and activism have brought her to Madrid, where for two days she has participated with experts and activists from different countries in the days Advances and future challenges in the fight against sexual exploitation, organized by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW by its acronym in English) and the Commission for the Investigation of Ill-Treatment of Women.
Melanie Thompson sat on Tuesday morning in front of the press with nine other women from different corners of the world to tell a story that is heard very little: that of the survivors. There are no official data – as often happens in this business – that measure how many fall back but serve a sample to understand how difficult it is to leave it behind. The Commission for the Investigation of Ill-Treatment of Women serves more than 800 people a year in five communities. Only two or three leave prostitution. "I call them heroines," says Sara Vicente, representative of the organization.
"The longer you are in the prostitution system, the more vulnerable you become. And the traffickers use the vulnerability of women, "says Thompson. He needed-and needs-psychological therapy. He suffered a depression with 13 years and spent a lot of time medicated. She has post-traumatic stress and has lived with several violent couples until she was able to reconstruct with therapy the limits of the permissible, erased between client and client. The young American girl came out thanks to psychological help and she was able to continue studying. Support and work. But not only.
An exprostituta: "The more time you are more vulnerable you become"
"I've been out of prostitution for 12 years … physically." The one who speaks is the Romanian Amelia Tiganus, probably the firmest voice of the survivors heard in Spain. A 34-year-old feminist activist, she was exploited in Spanish brothels for five years. Now he works in Feminicidio.net, a social project that keeps the accounts that the State has not yet assumed: women murdered outside the couple or ex-partners. Tiganus speaks of nightmares, of memories that are not erased: "Something of me stayed there, I have to learn to live with it", he laments. "We need a society that embraces us, that creates us, that looks us in the face. If we have survived the torture, you have to become accomplices in the healing. "
In Spain prostitution is alegal. The PSOE government, which is defined as an abolitionist executive, prepares a law on trafficking that has not transcended many details, although a party proposal contemplates abolitionist measures.
The great abolitionist model is the one in Sweden, which penalizes the prostitution client. According to your own estimates, they have managed to eradicate street prostitution. They also monitor the reintegration of women. "The Government of Sweden works closely with NGOs to ensure that victims of trafficking and prostitution have a safe reception when they exit prostitution," explains Per Anders Sunesson, ambassador of trafficking and prostitution issues of the Swedish government, who has participated these days in the days of Madrid. They have coordinators in all regions who collaborate with police, prosecutors and social affairs to "protect and help the victims".
"We need a society that embraces us," says one activist
"In Sweden the teams and the law work because there is political will," says Sara Vicente. She defends that the main thing of Sweden, of which Spain is still very far away, is the change of social perception: the client commits a crime. "We must change the discourse. There are organizations that try to convince women that the best thing that can happen to them is that they are raped by five or 10 men a day, that they have to be transformed. Until they understand that prostitution and trafficking go hand in hand, it will not be enough. "
There are many ways to tell the life of Melanie Thompson, who is returning to her flat in Queens. It has a lot of future plans. Finish the master's degree, set up an NGO to help other survivors. Husband, nice house, children. "Maybe a car …" It stops and thinks. "No, in New York it's impossible to have a car." He laughs