Prostitution conference

Rachel Moran: ending the "tsunami of trauma" in prostitution

Rachel Moran, author of "Paid For", is the founder of SPACE International. A former prostitute, she now advocates the Nordic model.
Rachel Moran, author of "Paid For", is the founder of SPACE International. A former prostitute, she now advocates the Nordic model.
Photo: Anouk Antony

By Natalie Gerhardstein

Rachel Moran, author of "Paid For: My Journey through Prostitution", was in Luxembourg for a conference on prostitution Wednesday evening, advocating the Nordic model.

Moran is passionate about the cause for good reason: at the age of 15, she began selling sex in Dublin, Ireland.

Her age was of no concern to her clients--and, in fact, many men became aroused knowing she was only 15. "Only one man out of hundreds turned back when he heard my age," Moran said. "Yet when I was 16, that same man returned anyway."

Her arc is similar to that of others in the trade: after a troubling childhood, she found herself homeless. One day, her older (also homeless) boyfriend made the suggestion that she become a prostitute and, after struggling with the idea,gave it a try. 

For seven years, she worked six to seven days per week, nearly around the clock. "Over those seven years, I saw many other women involved in the tsunami of trauma in Ireland, and later through my international travel," Moran said. "Not all of them are still alive."

"I've never met a woman who wouldn't get out of [prostitution] if she could."
"I've never met a woman who wouldn't get out of [prostitution] if she could."
Photo: Anouk Antony

In fact, violence is "a matter of routine" for prostitutes, Moran writes in "Paid For". In her memoir, she attacks a number of myths about the trade, such as that there is a safer option working indoors versus the streets, or that some women actually want to be prostitutes.

"I never met a woman who wouldn't get out of it if she could," said Moran.

At the age of 22, she managed to get off drugs and out of prostitution. She considers herself lucky to have been in Ireland, where the education programme she entered didn't have exorbitant fees. It wasn't until 10 years later, as she was writing her book, that she realised how much psychological trauma--not just physical trauma--she had experienced.

The Nordic model

Founder of SPACE International, Moran is working to persuade legislators to adopt the Nordic model. Northern Ireland became the first part of the UK to pass laws in this style, and Sweden adopted the model in 1999 as part of its Violence Against Women bill.

So what is the Nordic model?

At its core, it decriminalises the act of selling sex and criminalises the act of buying it. It also puts emphasis on exit programs for those who want to get out of the trade, including social services for the victims.

In Sweden, according to Simon Häggström of Stockholm's police prostitution unit, the model places all pressure on the buyer and protects the woman: women feel safe to call the police in case of violence, and when men are caught, around 80 percent admit to the crime to avoid others finding out because trials there are open to the public. Since its adoption, murders have been virtually unheard of.

Moran considers the Nordic model a "three-legged stool" which, without one leg, won't stand.

For Moran, it's the only solution--and it's an obvious one. "We do it in all other levels of the law," she explained. "Can you imagine if you were the victim of a burglary--and then you were the one arrested if you were robbed?"

The prostitution and sex trade conference on Wednesday evening was organised by the Conseil National des Femmes du Luxembourg in collaboration with the European Women's Lobby.

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