LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Helena Evans, 56, is a former sex worker. She recalls how she got into prostitution at the age of 13 after being sexually abused in a children’s care home.
“I was put into a care home at the age of 12 years for being out of my parents’ control and for stealing a packet of biscuits. I came out at the age of 15. I became a sex worker at the age of 13 and didn't exit prostitution until I became 40.
“Really it all started from being sexually abused in a children's care home. The first person to abuse me was one of the other children. She was 14. She jumped into bed with me and started doing things.
“There were 90 of us in there, and 30 to a dormitory. I couldn't stand the other children in there; they were very disturbed and aggressive. They ranged from the age of 10 to 18 years. I felt shocked about everything that took place when I first arrived. I learnt a lot about crime in there.
“Over a period of three years, I was in three different homes. They were all the same.
“I began to cut myself, and ran away four weeks after arriving in the first home. The authorities didn't recognise why I was so traumatised.
“I was raped the first two times that I ran away. This is actually how I lost my virginity.
The first time I ran away to go back to see my mother (in Cardiff). I was hitchhiking, and a lorry driver picked me up.
“On the journey he suddenly turned off of the M4 to stop in a by-lane. He opened my door. Then he said: 'It's time for payment. Get those drawers off.' I was paralysed with fear. He was a big bloke. I bled.
“Another time when I was 13, I ran away with a friend from Birmingham. A couple picked us both up. They took us to their house, gave us fags (cigarettes) and cooked us a meal.
“They even bought me some clothes. It was the first set of new clothes I'd had for ages. The woman used to go out in the night.
“On the third day she said to me that she went with men, that I could also earn some money from it. I didn't understand what she was on about.
“The first person she brought to sleep with me, she brought him to the house. It took literally two minutes. That was it. They got paid for it, but I didn't end up getting paid because they were providing for me (materially).
“When I went out on the street with her, she went up to the cars to talk to the punters and do the bargaining. She always kept the money.
“I only stayed for a month because the man hit me. Also there were no more new clothes, and not that many fags so I thought to myself: 'I want to get out of this situation.’
“One day they were arguing. The woman smashed her fist through a window and her arm was bleeding excessively. She had to go to hospital, and it was at that point that I seized my opportunity to escape.
“I was picked up by the police walking the streets and brought to a place called an approved school. It's basically a secure unit for kids and I was locked in what was like a cell for six weeks.
“It had no window and a raised concrete platform for a bed. The staff took the mattress away in the morning and they wouldn't give it back until the evening.
“Not one time when I ran away and then got picked up again did the staff ever ask me what had happened whilst I was away or why I ran away. You'd think for a 12- or 13-year-old they'd ask you that question, you know.
“When the first person offered me £20 for sex at the age of 13, I couldn't believe it. I thought I'd won the jackpot. Forty-three years ago it was a lot of money for a young child. I felt like someone wanted me, that I was actually worth something to someone. Previously, I felt like scum.
“I'd been abused sexually and raped quite a few times by then so this transaction gave me a sense of power. I felt like I was taking something back, not just having something being taken from me.
“It carried on from there because if I ran away from the care homes and didn't have any money, I couldn't eat. I was often picked up by the police down Piccadilly Circus. I'd be there trying to get a punter.
“Many young girls go with pimps because they know that otherwise they will have to go back to care homes or secure units where they would be threatened and abused some more. That’s why in some parts I used to love being on the run, because it took me away from myself. It gave me a sense of freedom.
“All the years I was a prostituted women, I was always with a man (being pimped). They (the police and the authorities) never did him (had him arrested or charged).
“As blokes went with me (sexually), I couldn't cut off emotionally so I started to take drugs to block down the pain. I had a deep sense of shame and it was paralysing me.
“All the prostitutes I know, and I know hundreds, are actresses. They don't enjoy it. They’re just doing it for the money or drugs or whatever. Any pretence of pleasure men hear from them is just to get them to finish off quickly.
“I am all for the proposed changes of law that the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade are putting forward in terms of amendments to section 47 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
“No child should be abused no matter what excuse people use. Hopefully the proposed changes of law can prevent vulnerable children from ending up where I ended up.”