Michelle endured an abusive and violent childhood in New Zealand. Her alcoholic father gave her her first drink when she was nine or ten years old and she was classified as an alcoholic by the age of 14; she entered prostitution at age 32. After successfully battling her substance addiction and exiting the sex industry, Michelle now shares her views on the industry and what it will take to stop exploitation in prostitution.

I remember my first day prostituting very well. My first client was a Scotsman and I charged him $60. I found it very easy to do. Maybe that is because as a teenager I traded sex for treats like alcohol with men I knew. An average day when I was in prostitution seemed quite normal. I would do the normal things like shopping etc. and if I had not been drinking in the day, I certainly would be by the evening. It gave me the courage to sleep with the men. I got raped once and scared many times, yet I continued to do it. At one stage I did not drink for about 4 months and still did it. I was like a robot with no emotions. Most sex workers have addiction problems and have had some form of abuse. There was always a long waiting list to get into detox and rehab, and often when you want to clean up and the desire is there, there is no help. New Zealand needs a lot more rehabs and detoxes. I believe that if there were more, people would have a better chance of succeeding.

I believe the sex industry destroys people who are already vulnerable and the worst thing the New Zealand government ever did was making it legal. All it did was make it easier to enter the sex industry. Prostitution is not normal and by making it legal the government is saying it is an ok job. Why make it easy to do it? It has made people who have often already been abused get abused even more, even if it is only emotional.

The sex industry is not an option for women and men, as it only destroys. It took me years to come right and that is only because I had a great support network. Many are not so lucky. I would have likely been dead otherwise. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in my 40s, because of sexual abuse as a child and my prostitution. I had major flashbacks to those days. I relived it for years afterwards and if anyone tried to give me a friendly touch or hug, I would flinch as if they were trying to hurt me.

Traffickers need to be locked away. They are preying on often vulnerable women to line their pockets. Governments need to take it more seriously. I believe the clients should be fined or some deterrent to stop them of paying for sex. Prostitution will never totally stop, but if a man knew he was going to be in trouble if caught paying for sex I believe the demand will lessen a lot. If there were no clients then traffickers and pimps would not be able to do what they do.

My wishes are to see other women and men leave the sex industry and to be available to share with people that it is possible.