Published: 00:01, 27 August 2017 |
Sitting in a beer garden in Canterbury on a cold August evening, ‘Hannah’ has spent a good five minutes explaining how much she loves her job.
She is here tonight because of that job – selling her body to strangers across Kent.
She’s two weeks into her six-week stay in the city. From here she moves on to “somewhere near”, but she isn’t sure where yet – it isn’t her choice to make.
Advertising her services on a mobile app for escorts – girlfriend experience, 15-minute play, role-play, massage – Hannah meets her “three or four” regular clients at a pub before getting to work.
Insisting she’s 23, but looking much younger, Hannah tells me she came to England from Romania when she was 12 after the death of her father.
Living with family in London, Hannah claims she struggled to adapt to her new way of life, eventually missing more and more of school before being expelled aged 15.
After a modelling career never materialised, Hannah took up casual bar work, with all the uncertainties that a zero-hours contract can bring.
Forced to return home at 17, she met the “love of her life” – the unnamed Romanian boyfriend who convinced her that the experience she had endured in England was because she was poor, and he had a plan to change that.
With relatives seemingly spanning every corner of Kent and south east London, this Romeo would take Hannah to various homes, where “friends” would watch Hannah undress.
“It was scary at first, very scary,” she recalls in her broken English, “but it was never more than underwear at first.”
Hannah explained that the boyfriend would charge men to watch the “show” and then split the money with her.
She could earn £80 if three or four men watched a 10-minute routine: “more than I would make on a shift in a bar,” she says.
One of the traits she learned during bar work was how much easier the shift can go after a couple of large drinks – the “two or three” vodkas on shift would become “four, maybe five” when stripping.
Speaking to me, it’s clear this probably isn’t her first drink of the day: a face which could be no older than 18 is beginning to show signs of wear and tear.
The face, tanned, well-defined, beautiful-looking still, is nowhere to be seen on her escorting profile she shows me – I ask why this is.
“They’re not interested,” she coolly replies.
Instead the three pictures that members have to subscribe to see are of Hannah in various stages of undress – something which her boyfriend convinced her to do for the added financial incentives.
Having signed up, Hannah’s boyfriend advised her what services she should be providing.
Starting off with “15-minute relief”, she soon graduated to offering “almost anything” that can be done.
Working three nights a week, Hannah makes on average £450 – which her boyfriend is “stashing away” so they can “soon afford a house”.
I ask why she keeps moving, why her boyfriend takes all the money, and why she’s OK talking to me.
Almost finding it easier to answer in reverse, Hannah quickly fires off: “I’m not ashamed. I’m bad with money, we need to move.”
It transpires the couple live with friends or family members for around a month at a time, they then move town to build up clients elsewhere and then return in a seemingly never-ending cycle.
The acts themselves require Hannah to go through the motions, but she seems ambivalent about what’s expected of her.
“I speak with people and agree what happens and that’s really it.”
Is this, I ask, what Hannah sees herself doing when she’s older?
“I make good money, and one day it will be enough to settle down and not work" - Hannah
“No, of course not, but I’m not ashamed.
“I make good money, and one day it will be enough to settle down and not work.”
Speaking of work, Hannah’s pay-as-you-go phone, the one clearly used for bookings, begins to violently ring in her designer handbag.
It’s time to go to work.
Before she drains her final drink I ask what she will be doing with the person on the other end of the phone.
After a long pause, she quips: “Not much.”
At this Hannah gets up to leave, one of the 70,000 sex workers in the UK.
For her, it’s just another night’s work.
Beyond the Streets is a charity which offers guidance as well as practical support for both women and men who feel they are either at risk of exploitation, or cannot escape the cycle of selling their bodies to clients.
A spokesperson said: “The cycle of prostitution may seem never ending for the tens of thousands caught up in it, but there are ways out.
“If you are involved, seek help from support groups and charities such as Beyond The Streets who can help you reaslise there is a life beyond prostitution and exploitation.”
Visit the Beyond the Streets website or call 0300 3021122
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