“When my clients are on drugs, I make more money…”
Ellie came to London from Brazil on a tourist visa 18 months ago (her name has been changed). The 27-year-old began sex-working four years ago in Brazil. Ellie was in an abusive marriage from the age of 16 to 23. Her former husband was involved in hard core cocaine. He would hit her, abuse her mentally and was very aggressive. Her single mother, sister and two brothers struggled financially, obliging Ellie to become a sex worker.
What’s the longest time you’ve spent with a client and how much did you make?
“Seventeen hours, and then he came back the same day and stayed an extra three hours. Making a total of £2360 in one day”.
Like many sex-working girls, Ellie does it for the sake of the quick cash she can make. “I have to help my family but I mainly work hard to sustain the life I live”. Ellie has worked in different parts of the UK but is currently based in Essex. A normal working day requires her to be prompt and ready to start at 11am, and open for business until 2am. She could see anywhere from five to eight clients depending on the day, making a minimum of £3000 a week.
Ellie also spends a lot of money on advertisements on websites like VIVA Street and Adult Work. Due to her lack of English, she pays a ‘maid’ who speaks English to answer the phone and book her clients – the maid’s fee is £10 per client. “I would like to learn English, but unfortunately I work seven days a week”, says Ellie.
Does your family know what you do? If not, what have you told them you’re doing here?
“No. They think I have a rich boyfriend and work in a restaurant”.
Why don’t you want them to know?
“I’m afraid my mother will judge me. They will be ashamed and embarrassed about me. I’m scared to lose them, so I prefer to hide it”.
Do you feel safe working in London compared to Brazil?
“I don’t feel safe because of the language barrier, it’s difficult to communicate. I don’t have any friends or family here. No one knows what I do apart from the girls I work with. I’m also scared I’ll get deported, I’ve already overstayed my visa. I must pay security to feel safe, I didn’t need to do that back home. I pay to work here”.
Would you like to stay in London?
Have you ever been involved in a robbery here in the UK?
“Yes. We closed for the day, and some men in balaclavas came to the door. They were banging on the door and we were so scared. The lights where on so they knew we were at home. One of the girls began to shout that we were closed. But they continued. The neighbours came out and one started calling the police. I was scared because I knew I would get deported if they found me, I didn’t want to take that risk. The men ran away and I ran to the basement of the flat and hid in a cupboard. I was so cold; I was praying they wouldn’t find me but they did. The police officer asked if I was a working girl, I said no, he asked me again, I said no. They said they would come back the next day to verify my stay because the immigration office was closed. I woke up bright and early packed my stuff and left. I have had situations where money has been stolen, I’ve been beaten up before, it is horrible”.
Due to the amount of money she is making – approximately £140,000 a year, Ellie has no desire to pursue any other career. She would prefer to marry a rich person and be famous.
In Great Britain, prostitution itself (the exchange of sexual services for money) is legal, but a number of related activities, including soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, owning or managing a brothel, pimping and pandering, are crimes. Women working in brothels are not committing a crime, as long as they pay taxes on their income.