San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Former Prostitute Shares Her Story, Goals

PROSTITUTION may not be achoice; rather it is often a last resort forwomen with shattered self-esteems whodon’t believe they are worthy of anythingbetter, say those who have helped CostaRican women embrace new lifestyles.Mariliana Morales, director of theFundación Rahab for women who want tostop prostituting themselves, says thelifestyle often veils a lifetime of abuse, andshe hopes to banish the myth that prostituteslike what they do.The foundation works to restore self-confidencein former prostitutes and givemany of them free or low-cost homes andjob skills to expand their career options(TT, Dec. 24, 2004).Following is an interview withJacqueline, a 24-year-old mother of twoand former prostitute who arrived at thefoundation a year ago seeking a better life.She asked that her identity not be revealed.How did you first begin prostitution?My three cousins and Inever had parental love,not from my mom, notfrom my grandfather. Mygrandfather abused us.Three uncles abused us aswell.My grandfather alwayscalled us zorras and prostitutes,and said we wereworthless. We alwaysthought of ourselves likethat – like prostitutes.At age 10, I started going out on thestreet. I wanted to feel like I could takerefuge in someone and be loved. When Iwent out on the street I found people whoabused me. I wanted something more fromthem. But they only wanted the one thing.I left the house at 10, for three months Iwas away and the family didn’t know whereI was. I went out looking for men. I wentback to the house, but always left and returnedafter that. I never had a steady place.At 11, I started going into bars and that’swhen I first began prostitution. What I didn’thave in my home, I found on the street.I was treated badly by men. They treatedme like my grandfather did. Spiritually,I was damaged.How did your grandfather abuse youand your cousins?My grandfather abused my threecousins on the finca he owns outside ofSan José. He raped them.We were all quiet about it. Nobodysaid anything. The family didn’t knowanything about it.He came to my room in the early morningand raped me while my grandmotherslept. Nobody knew anything.We had told them five years ago, butnobody believed us. He died last month at86.He touched my cousin’s three-year-olddaughter, we knew. We tried to keep herwithin our sight at all times, but sometimesthey were alone together.Do most prostitutes or former prostitutesyou know have similar stories ofabuse?Yes. Here (at the foundation) there arestories worse than mine.Did you ever try looking for otherwork?When we went to look for jobs in a factorywe were turned down because youhave to have a sixth grade education towork there. I stopped studying in thirdgrade because nobody made me go.The whole family told me I was goodfor nothing. So that mentality permeateseverything. I didn’t do well, didn’t knowanything in school, never studied. I neverhad anyone who was concernedabout me.Now I still feel that way attimes – that I’m not smartenough to study well – butwith the help of the Lord I’velearned many things here (atthe foundation).What were some of thelowest points during yourtime as a prostitute?At 16, a man took mefrom a bar and told the taxi driver to takeus to a hotel. I said no, but the cab drivertook us there and the man did ugly thingsto me. I left there beaten, and began walkingtoward my house. But the man had gotteninto a taxi and followed, then continuedbeating me near my house on the sidewalk.Once, in front of my house, a man tookout a pistol and pointed it at me and tookout his intimate parts and began to masturbate.And I said, Lord, don’t let anyone inthe house come out.And I was often ashamed. People look atyou like you’re nothing. You don’t need aperson to talk. Just the look they give isenough to know how little they think of you.Was there any drug abuse?No, I didn’t get into drugs much. Idrank a lot, and smoked.What was your routine like?I went out five or six times a night – itdepended. Sometimes I would stay withthe same man the whole night.We played games – strip poker, and wewould take our clothes off and dance withthe men. Sometimes we stayed out for daysor weeks at a time.For me, it was a distraction from whathappened in my home.Who were your clients?Businessmen, men who lived well,were among my clients. They had wivesand sometimes their wives let their husbandsbe with us.How have things changed?I’ve been out of prostitution for threeyears. Now, when someone calls me aprostitute I don’t accept it.My face has changed – it was full ofbitterness. I became angry in a flash. I wasa different woman.We came here with the goal to studyand nothing else. Not to have a house or animproved self-esteem. God has made bigchanges in our lives. He supported us inthe ways our family didn’t – physically,emotionally and spiritually, and God isfaithful and real. For me, life now is beautiful.I want to be a good woman, to raise mykids well. I’m studying; I’m going to finishsixth grade. I’m studying computer skills,and cosmetics.I want to be a secretary, maybe learnEnglish. I have high goals now.I want to give my children what myparents never gave me – love and attention.THE Fundación Rahab’s San Josébranch works with 40 former prostitutesand hopes to expand its services to twicethat number by next month. Its operatingcosts are covered entirely by donations.Donations made in Costa Rica are taxdeductible, and are tax-deductible in theUnited States as well if made through theLatin America Mission.In Costa Rica, donations can be madeto the Banco Nacional account 095143-4in colones, and 095-002327-4 in dollars.In the United States, donations can besent to: Latin America Mission, P.O. Box52-7900, Miami, FL 33152-7900.For more information, call 221-4908,e-mail, or see theWeb site

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