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Inside Outside

the sex industry in Scotland

Silencing and sharing

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It’s never easy to stand up and talk in front of a group of people.

Questions run through your mind -who are they?  what do they already know?  why do they want to hear you speak?  how will they deal with what you say? what will they think?

Despite being well familiar with the ins and outs of power point and having stood in front of many different audiences, it never gets easy.  The butterflies are there and the old tip to bite the end of my tongue rings loud in the final seconds before standing up and speaking out.  My last presentation on Wednesday 23rd November was one of the toughest I have delivered.

We were invited to take Inside Outside to Belfast for the 23rd Regional sexual health conference.  Plans had been underway for a while and Katie was due to speak, to get up on that platform and bravely share her story of Inside Outside – what it had done for her, what she had learned and gained form the whole journey.  We talked about preparing for this and was she sure she wanted to stand up?  She was sure and this was a big step for her.

Sadly,  when we started to post and mention #insideoutsidebelfast on social media, a few ripples started.  Murmurs that some people were not happy for us to be there, that we were not welcome, that Belfast was “done” with us, that we would be stopped. A lot went on in the background (the telling of that would require a mammoth post) and we had to take the difficult decision to not put Katie on the stage.  We couldn’t guarantee it would be safe for her and that her identity could be protected.  If there were people “unhappy” at Inside Outside being there, how could we put Katie in an awkward position?  How could we ask her put herself in a vulnerable position with little control, no choice on what people posted on social media and not in a position to consent to her image possibly being used.

She wasn’t to get her 10 minutes in the spotlight, her place at the top table and space on the panel.

I was gutted for her.  How unfair.   To come to a decision to bravely stand up and share her story and then for that choice to be taken from her because of others “unhappiness” that Inside Outside had the audacity to think that people in Northern Ireland might want to hear from them.  Those rumbles, grumbles and threats only served to silence a woman who has not spoken in public before.  A stark reminder of how hard it is for women inside and outside the sex industry to have a voice.  How easily they have been and can continue be silenced.

To make sure she had a voice and presence – we worked together on an input that I would read and share on her behalf.   It felt strange to be up there speaking and sharing Katie’s own thoughts and reflections when it should have been her.

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Here are her words.

“Hi, I am Katie

I am in my early twenties.

I was inside the sex industry in Scotland for 4 years. I started in indoors prostitution through brothels and saunas. I recently exited the sex industry and have no desire to go back.

 

Life isn’t always as it seems.

My journey has not been one of a posh silver spooned girl. I have been hurt & broken to a point I couldn’t recognise the person looking back at me. I’ve been through physical and mental abuse from those I trusted, trusted with my life. I’ve been used and abused.

People now look at me like I can’t handle myself, how wrong they’d be.

I may not be proud of the things I have done and the paths I have walked. There have definitely been detours or scenic routes in my life. Many scenes I do not want to see again but recently I have learnt to look at my story in a whole new light!

As I continue to move forward in my journey, there is continuous changing factors. People coming, people going, moving on, falling backwards. Making memories and reminiscing. I’ve learnt it doesn’t matter if a person has been in your life for 5 years or 5 minutes, the most real ones are those that show loyalty when it counts.  They’re the people I need in my life, they’re the ones that push me to better my life. Not those who are sitting waiting for me to fall back into my old ways.

It’s true if anyone had told me the reality of this lifestyle, I would have searched every other option. But would I have really believed them?

When I was inside the sex industry – It was basically like living two lives.

You have your work life and your family, friends, partners think you do something else. You have to keep up this fake act.

Something could have happened at work and they would have no idea why you were so upset. They wouldn’t understand and you can’t come out and tell them. No. You just wouldn’t.

There was times that you want to like, just scream and tell them and then they maybe they would understand why you are, like, you are. But then at the same time, it’s not worth it. It’s hard to keep them separate but you must. 

My support worker told me about Inside Outside.

I thought it sounded different and quite interesting, something I would like to be involved in. I wanted to take part as I always like to try new things and learn new skills along the way. I thought it would be an interesting project to be part of. I can say now I underestimated how powerful it would actually be. 

I worked with Linda for my interview. It was a bit of a weird one for me as mentally and emotionally i was in a very fragile place around that time. I had been so close to pulling out and cancelling the whole thing. I’m so happy i carried on with it.

It was pretty scary telling my story. It makes it more real when you hear yourself say it out loud. Having the digital recorder there it made me think more about what I was saying and how I was saying it. I’m not all that sure how I decided what to tell. I guess I told the stuff in a slightly more PG version. I don’t think I would take back anything that I said, No.

After the interview I got the transcript. Oh that transcript… Wow how odd reading every word the ums & ehhs. And so so long. I read through it and decided what I wanted to share / not share. I didn’t want anything in it that would identify me or mean that people could recognise me.

My photo ideas came quite naturally to me. They were forever changing though. I got quite into the project from then on. I started taking pictures in my everyday life and surroundings that represent parts of my story and editing them to my liking.It was hard to narrow down to the ones I was actually going to use in the project.I really enjoyed it. Expressing myself and telling a story through pictures.

 

The project was launched in Holyrood.

Going there to it was so incredibly nerve racking and terrifying but amazing. I ran to the parliament all stressed that I was going to be late to see my own photos, in we go through all the security.  We walked down the long glass corridor to a huge smile and cuddle from Linda.

Seeing all the ladies photo’s and hearing their individual stories had me holding back tears (we all were) relating to parts of them all. That is such a memorable and important day for me.

I got my copy of the book that day – it is beautiful! My story takes up A LOT of pages! I am so proud of it and to be in it.

When the exhibition opened in Dundee – I went to the launch night. It was so emotional! I remember listening to Linda speak, it was very moving and and at a few moments during it I could feel myself tearing up! hoping no one would notice. So moving! Quite surreal actually, no one there knowing who I am and that my pictures are on that wall. My story is in that book you’re going to read. 

Seeing my work on tour… hmmm I don’t know if that’s actually hit home yet!

Following it all on social media is crazy. I don’t know what other way to describe it. . I had no idea how many people would read it and be touched by it. It’s still surreal but amazing to see how many people have been following and all so interested in the project and where it is going. Getting feedback on my pictures that someone else actually liked them was amazing. I am so proud and humbled to see it all.

I’ve kept writing blogs because I really enjoy it, it’s a release for me, a place to escape. For people following the project and those supporting it to see we’re real, we don’t just disappear after you read our stories. Our stories are still playing out.

I felt the idea of the women telling their stories could be very eye opening to both those inside and outside of the sex industry as everyone story is different. I think the idea of getting women to tell their stories in such an individual way and using our minds to create something so beautiful that is going to reach so many people is amazing. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our stories- they’re our stories.  They have made us who we are. What we are involved may not be others reality but it is ours and millions of other women and men around the world.

There is so much more to my story than what is there in that interview and in my chapter in the book. Example – What swings and roundabouts my life had been through to get me to the point that that was my only option. About the ups and downs of really working, the amazing people I met, how in a weird warped way I’m thankful that I’ve been through it all cause realistically if I hadn’t Ii wouldn’t be the person I am now or where I am now. 

 I have learnt quite a lot about myself throughout the course of this project so far which I didn’t expect to.

I learnt I actually like taking pictures and editing, that I’m arty. That I’m stronger than I thought I was, after going over my story realising how much I have dealt with and overcome and to the fact I’m still here I’m still standing still doing something positive.

I truly believe if it was not for the project I would not be where I am today I got a new beginning, a positive future and a new outlook from the project and I cannot be more thankful.

I would like to see more projects like this reaching more women and for them not to be scared of getting involved, that you never know it may open doors for their exit out of the industry if that is what they want for themselves. For more women to know that Inside Outside is a safe place with so much support that they can tell their stories.

For them to know not everyone judges.”

Thank you Katie.

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From the kind feedback we have received from those who attended- it seems that Belfast wasn’t done with us after all, many were very happy to see and hear from Inside Outside, we were very welcome and have already been invited back.     A heartening response to remind us that those who shout loudest don’t always have the ears of all they think they do.  Sometimes when those with the least power get the chance to speak, people do sit up and listen.

Yet again – thanks to Katie for her speech and to Natasha, Levi, Natalia, Wendy, Joanne and  Sarah Jane for their photos and words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well done Joanne

Delighted.   We are delighted to find out that Joanne and her blog as been nominated for one of these awards. https://www.facebook.com/WritetoendVAWAwards/

Fantastic for her and great for Inside Outside.

http://www.insideoutsidescotland.info/joanne.html

 

 

 

 

The amazing women

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A short post but a lovely one.

Following our input last week at the sexual health conference in Belfast, a person who attended messaged us with this feedback.  Given that some people really did not want us to take the words and works from the women in Inside Outside to this event ( and apparently Belfast as a whole!) this meant so much to us.

 

“I attended the conference today and I just want to say thank you to Inside Outside for such an inspirational and passionate presentation.
As a health professional I am sadly not usually moved to feel the need to thank people for presentations. However, after I heard all about the project and the stories and pictures I honestlytly couldn’t really speak to my colleagues through fear of turning into a blubbering idiot 😂😂 I was moved so much by your passion and the stories of the women I really did have to fight back the tears.
Looking through all the notes I wrote at the conference today I realized I wrote nothing but the title of your project! I was just so gripped on what you were saying and the photos i must not have felt the need to write.

Thank you again and thank you to the amazing women also.xx”

An afternoon out

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A guest blog from Alison, one of he organisers of the birthday event last week that we were so pleased to be part of.

Thanks for  this A ( and for all your hard work too of course!)

“The capital city of Scotland has lots of distinguishing features. One is that it has more saunas on its streets than any other Scottish city and another is that it has more private schools than any other Scottish city.  Yesterday, 26 kids aged 17 and 18 came from one of these schools to see and learn from the Inside Outside exhibition.

When I suggested this to the teachers at the school in September they were really keen, so keen and so willing to involve the kids. I met with the staff and showed them the book of Inside Outside. I wanted to make sure that they knew something of what the project was saying so that there was no misunderstanding about the power and impact of the women’s work. The staff were still really keen and very excited. This was way out of the realms of the usual school trip but they were going for it.

Yesterday the group arrived, they stood around politely listening. The staff from SACRO and I stood behind – I think we were all waiting for someone to find it all too much and we were there at the back to manage that without it becoming an issue. we tried to make the kids feel safe. They had to imagine a loved woman in their lives and take her on their journey round the exhibition with them.  As they heard about Joanne’s story, some eyes went to the floor.  She wasn’t much older than them. One of them related some of the words to the storyline of ‘I, Daniel Blake’.  They were getting it!!

All of these young people from privileged and protected backgrounds were completely engaged by the stories of Natasha, Katie, Wendy, Natalia and Sarah-Jane. 26 pairs of eyes never left her or the photos on the walls. After more than an hour, they were all able to find threads through the stories which joined the women. “These women are all so strong” one girl said. Everyone nodded. “Why doesn’t someone change the law and not have this?” another asked. Why indeed.

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They decorated masks depicting women being silenced with red tape across the mouth, women broken in two with scars, women with beautiful flowers on their foreheads – so powerful. The young people wrote on the comment cards – emotional and genuine messages.

They want to put something in their school magazine – which goes out to parents. It is glossier and fancier than the Inside Outside book! These young people want their friends and families to see what they were privileged and protected to see yesterday.”

 

Scratching surfaces

Another guest post from someone who has been to see the exhibition.

Thank you L.

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(photo j. Devlin)

 

I have been working supporting women involved in prostitution and I am a passionate believer in equality, I keep up to date with news and campaigns, and I care. And still – I am constantly struck with how much I don’t and can’t ever really know about the realities of prostitution, and the experiences of the women within it. More worrying than that, I am close enough to remember how much I thought I understood before entering support work.

I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

The media feed us so many images of prostitution, TV drama or carefully edited documentaries that give the impression of balance, but that’s never the case. As soon as someone else is involved in the editing process, the story is taken away from the woman who lived it, and becomes something other – if it wasn’t a fiction to begin with. Every documentary has a lens, a perspective, and often this will have been decided before women were even contacted, or with no consultation with women with lived experience at all.

I have been privileged to support a number of clients during my short time as a worker. They have told me their stories, they have revealed what they want to, or are able, and they have kept those things that they are unable to share, or that they want to keep to themselves. What the women are telling me about their experiences, their lives, doesn’t even slightly resemble the impression I had before from the stories that the media and popular culture had fed me.

None of the women are shady background figures; they are not blurry, pixelated images, or backdrops to the main action. These women are smart, funny, caring, constantly surprising, and so considerate. These women turn up and stand up when every circumstance in their lives seems to be conspiring to try and stop them. And sometimes they don’t or can’t – and that’s alright too. The women I work with are incredible. They are mothers, daughters, sisters and more than that they are their own women. There is nothing of that in the media – that strength and resilience. The individuality and spark.

Equally there is so much trauma; so much abuse, such a culture of preying on women who need supporting, and so much pain. Women who have been let down often and repeatedly, undervalued, abused emotionally, physically and financially. You will not understand anything of this world through watching a TV drama or film.  The women themselves tell me that prostitution is not empowering. It is not neat and clean and it certainly can’t be packaged for public consumption in giggles and taboos.

The Inside Outside project is so important because it gives the camera to the women whose stories are told. They tell their own story. They are the editor, they get the final selection and the story that is presented on the walls is theirs. It was an absolute privilege to attend the exhibition and to be given that insight and witness such strength – women allowing themselves to be vulnerable in order to educate, to help others and to heal.

You need to go to this exhibition, to engage with the women’s stories and to really let their message in.

Here is your opportunity to scratch the surface, to begin to imagine what it would be like to fully understand. Take it.”

 

 

 

 

An alright job

http://www.scotsman.com/news/insight-the-edinburgh-clinic-helping-sex-workers-stay-safe-1-4610890

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I don’t let him see that it bothers me. I used to take everything everybody said to me onboard. I’m trying to give him a more care-free attitude. I develop this persona like, “Well, I really don’t care what you’re saying. I can’t even hear it.” I put on this the mask every day with the makeup, the hair and the outfit. I do not let them see they’re grinding me down. It becomes tiring ‘cos you’re constantly having to be strong. I come home and I take the mask off. I can start to be a human bein’ for a bit. Be myself. That’s when I’m most vulnerable ‘cos there’s no pretense. I hear every word that’s been said to me that day. Sometimes it all sort of hits me. I don’t want them to like what I did, to give me praise, I don’t want them, I just want them to just leave me alone.

To mark its 10th anniversary, the clinic is bringing Inside Outside, an exhibition featuring the voices, photography and art work of women who are or have been prostitutes, to Sacro’s offices in Albany Street.

The display, produced by Encompass, a network of Scottish agencies dealing directly with women in the sex industry, gave many of those who took part their first chance to tell their stories.

One of the women, Wendy, 36, agrees to talk to me about her descent into heroin addiction and street prostitution, and the effort it has taken to leave it behind.

A petite, live-wire of a woman, she opens the door of the flat she now shares with her seven-year-old son, Jackson, and ushers me in. It is 11am, but she is fully made-up – a symptom she says of her chronic Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition common to former addicts.

We take cups of tea into her bedroom. One wall is covered with Sons Of Anarchy paraphernalia. She says the TV series, which charts a biker’s recovery from drug addiction, brought her strength as she battled her own demons.

Wendy’s story is as traumatic as any I have heard: bullied at school, then raped by her uncle at 15, she began to see her body as a commodity, having sex with a succession of boys who used her and moved on. At 20, she fell in love with a heroin addict who beat her and, after a spell in prison, forced her to start using as well.Eventually, she began selling sex on the streets. “I needed money for the drugs,” she says. “I didn’t want to rob people, I didn’t want to shoplift. I justified it to myself by saying that at least this way I was the only one getting hurt.”

Wendy doesn’t understand how anyone can say prostitution isn’t dangerous. “I was terrified in every car I got into,” she says. “You didn’t know if the guy was going to strangle you: all he had to do was lock the door.” She was assaulted many times. But the trauma went beyond the physical. “I always say that, for every car I got in, I might not have been physically raped, but I was emotionally raped, because the whole time you are screaming inside your head: ‘What are you doing? Get out. This is wrong.’”

I ask Wendy if she believes any women are sex workers by “choice”. “Well, the higher end girls – the escorts – maybe. But on the streets every story was tragic, every girl was tragic. I never saw anyone smile,” she says. In the piece she wrote for Inside Outside, she describes seeing a frail Romanian girl – “a bag of bones” – having sex in a doorway. She looked like she was dead inside; like she had given up. “The light had gone out of most of the girls’ eyes, but I must have had a wee spark left,” she says.

the doll
I saw quite a few foreign girls especially towards the end of my time on the streets. One of the worst for me was a wee girl, I think she was Romanian. I’d seen her working the streets quite a lot and I thought she looked really young. She was so frail. You could just tell that she did not want to be there. I’d smile and say “Hello” to her when I past her. One summer night I just got off the bus and I passed a doorway. She was in there with her wee skinny legs wi’ her underwear right at her ankles and this guy was obviously having his way wi’ her. She was just a bag of bones, just bein’ used in a doorway. I remember turning and her eyes met mine. She looked fucking dead inside, like she had so given up. While he was doing what he was doing to her there was nothin’ absolutely nothin’ there. Nothin’. She was so young. I saw the fucking arsehole that used to collect her money, he took her all money. I gave her half my money so she could get somethin’ to eat.

Wendy’s journey back was not straightforward; after staying clean for the first three years of Jackson’s life, she suffered a 13-month relapse, during which he went to live with her mother. Today, she is free of drugs – methadone as well as heroin – but she is not yet free of her past. Living back in her home town, she is taunted by teenagers who have heard the rumours. “They shout: ‘hooker’ and ‘how much?’ at me,” she says.She has an on-off relationship with a man she first knew at school, but he is too embarrassed to be seen in public with her. And, in any case, her history of abuse means she now finds any kind of intimacy difficult. “You know how people like to lie and have a hug: it makes me rigid just to think about it,” she says. “I don’t know how to accept someone wanting to put their hands on my hair; I don’t know how to accept someone wanting to hold my hand; I don’t know how to accept someone wanting more than sexual contact because that is all I know.”Nevertheless, her life is improving.

Taking part in Inside Outside has built her confidence and she is currently trying to set up a youth project to help prevent other young people going down the same path; she sees them in her neighbourhood, hanging round kebab shops and smoking bongs.

There is time yet for her to study – she is conspicuously intelligent – but for now she wants to focus on Jackson.

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During our interview, Wendy shares some terrible experiences – the time her ex took a piece of her scalp off with a floor brush; the time she was held hostage for 48 hours – but the only moment she cries is when she talks about the impact of her relapse on her son. “It’s really hard to hear that, at three years old, your son felt lonely at nursery because his mummy wasn’t there,” she says. “You beat yourself up. I can’t go back and change things, but I can make sure that every single day of that wee boy’s life from here on in, I will be there 100 per cent.”As Jackson runs into the room and flings himself on top of her, it is clear their bond has been repaired. They have a relationship built on honesty. She has told him she took “bad drugs” and that, for a while, she wasn’t “a good mummy”.

 

One day she will tell him about her time on the streets; not every single detail, just as much as he wants to hear. “I will do that because I want my son to grow up understanding the world is not always a lovely place,” she says. “It’s not always safe and it is important to treat women with respect; it’s important you don’t use people. As long as Jackson grows up to be a gentleman, I will have done an all right job.”

Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/news/insight-the-edinburgh-clinic-helping-sex-workers-stay-safe-1-4610890

John

 

We just spent a very interesting and enjoyable afternoon with the lovely John – a photographer sent to us to get pictures for a forthcoming article.

I was clear that I did not want stock images to be used for the women from Inside Outside – the usual streetlight with a woman in high heels spotlighted, the woman leaning into a car or the woman with crossed legs sitting on a bed with a pile of money beside her.  We have all seen these images too many times.

The paper wanted a picture of me which was quickly rebuffed.  That would have put the focus on me and this project is not about me or mine in any way.  This is the women’s project and I wanted the photos to capture their work and focus on them.

Also to be honest, I wasn’t up for the usual slew of negative and personal attacks that come my way after such pieces.  It will probably happen anyhow with some interesting accusations being levied.

Credit to the journalist, the newspaper and Cat, the photo editor – they really went out of their way to work with us for something different. I  think and hope we achieved that.

John arrived with his kit.  I thought how Kathryn may have been if she was here.  I also thought of Natalia and how she would be tempted by all the cameras and lens etc.

I don’t think we were quite sure where this session would go but in keeping with the spirit of the project – we let it unfold itself, testing out ideas and going for it.

John was a gem, a star.  He totally got what the project was about and was moved by the photos and stories.  This wasn’t just a bland assignment for him and he totally stepped inside the project for those couple of hours.  He was interested in what we had done but more importantly for me, he understood that this was the work of very real women and he wanted to reflect that and do credit to them.

He was impressed by the photos and what this amazing bunch of women had considered and created.  He saw real talent and potential there.  We see it too but it means a lot to hear it directly from a professional.

His photos are beautiful. Stunning.  I cant wait to share them with the women.  Thank you John.

We parted with a warm handshake and as I type he is probably buzzing after 2 mugs of the strongest coffee I could brew.

I am buzzing too – with nerves and excitement to see the feature this weekend.

It could have been me

Write a blog about it!   That has become one of the phrases linked with the project and the joke is that if you come within 10 metres of the exhibition – we want a blog about it.

This is a lovely post from Caroline, who supported #insideoutsidedundee

thank you Caroline for your blog and thank you for all you have done to support the project.  You know how much it is appreciated.

“When I was first told of this project, I was intrigued and believed it would be a great project. This turned out to be true.

Being a woman in her 40s, I was pretty sure I would understand the womens stories. I was delighted to be ask to support this… I was asked to read a couple of the transcripts of the conversations. There my journey began.

It was a chilly day as I recall, sitting in the mezzanine of a studio. Loaded up with a plentiful supply of hot coffee and some wee chocolates, I began to read the first one. My notes were taken and I began to read the second…A flurry of emotions and thoughts were put to paper.  I had feelings of..”oh how easily this could have been me!”

I became involved in supporting the exhibition come to Dundee. 

 

I was running a tad late on the date of the opening of the completed exhibition. I quietly entered the entrance to Dundee Unis Dalhousie Building. The opening ceremony was in full swing. I stood quietly at the back and listened to the speakers. Linda was up next….. Hearing her speak so passionately about the project and giving a brief synopsis of the objective, brought tears to my eyes.

I had read some very disturbing and frankly scary things from the women… They had shared so much and I, at times, felt overwhelmed.

The photographs that the women had taken were stunning,  however understanding the context of their pics was even more powerful.

 

The telling thing for me was when my mum came to view the exhibition. She looked at the pictures whilst clutching the book of all the women’s tales… She sat down in the foyer and quietly read through the stories. I left her to it.

As we were leaving, mum was quiet. I asked what did she think of it?

I will never forget the look in her eyes as she spoke to me. there were tears welling up alongside a look of anger.

“Those poor souls. I am so angry that these women had to endure what they did. I hope the girls are dong ok now?”

I took time to explain that I believed the women had moved forward and now felt in control of their lives.

” this could have easily been me!!!” said my mum….   I hugged her a bit tighter as we said our goodbyes for the day.

 

I was so honoured to help in the little ways that I could, whilst undergoing my own medical issues. I do think EVERY woman can relate to the stories the girls told. countless other towns and cities are affected by the same issues al be it on varying scales.

The sad sorry truth is that these tales could so easily be about any one of us, our mothers, our daughters, our sisters or cousins…

 

I am so happy to have played a small part in this and hope many towns and cities highlight the issue. It is happening everywhere and is happening now.

 

The girls are never really far from my thoughts and I continue to hope they are still doing just grand…

Their haunting tales will stay with me for a very long time.”

 

 

 

 

 

Heart and soul

 

(image from http://www.amazonaws.com)

One of our recent blogs was about the fantastic women at the REconnect project who came along to an exclusive preview of the exhibition at Gala House in the Borders.

Following their visit, they spent time reflecting on what the exhibition had meant for them as a group and individually and worked with Joanne to write this blog post.   There is so much in it on the impact on them and what it meant for their own connection to their own stories.   We are so grateful for this input and as ever appreciative of the time they have given to the project and the women from Inside Outside.

“I am grateful to the women of the Galashiels ReConnect Group for giving me the opportunity to spend an afternoon with them following their preview of the Inside Outside Borders Exhibition in September. The women were extremely frank about their reactions to the exhibition and I am privileged to be able to recount those reactions on their behalf. I have tried to quote the women as accurately as I can; after all, this is about them, not me.

All of the women found the subject matter challenging to view and for some it evoked personal memories which were difficult to remember. One group member said, “I felt like I was a glass bottle that was smashed on the floor. I have built myself back together but there will always be a bit missing.” The women who shared their stories in the exhibition allowed the group members to recognise others who had been through experiences relatable to their own.

Another group member said, “It made me remember myself. I stopped feeling so bitter.”

The group members felt as though they came to know the women through their honest accounts of their experiences. One group member said, “A very powerful exhibition. I was overwhelmed to actually discover the truth and reality behind it all. It’s great that Linda gave all these brave women a chance to finally tell their story.”

When describing how the exhibition made them feel, the women used words such as angry, drained emotionally, powerful, happier, regained control, overwhelmed and physically sick. This is a small sample – there were many more. What the choice of words shows is that the exhibition produced strong feelings in everybody but not all of these feelings were negative. Some felt that the hopes and dreams of the women allowed themselves to have hope too.

The exhibition left the viewers exhausted but they all agreed that they were glad that they had seen it. One of the women said she was glad the exhibition had been brought to the Scottish Borders where some people are ignorant and small-minded, always putting their heads in the sand, not believing this was something which affected the Scottish Borders. They agreed that society’s attitudes have to change and that exhibitions like Inside Outside are a big step in the right direction. They want men to stop thinking that using women in this way is their right.

Some of the group said their own attitudes had changed since the preview. One woman didn’t know what went on inside saunas. Another said the exhibition highlighted the imbalance in power and control between men and women. Some of the women knew men, family members, acquaintances, friends who had revealed they had paid for sex or used a sauna. Following the exhibition the women wished that they had spoken out at the time instead of accepting this behaviour as the norm.

Finally, I’d like to share some of the messages from the women who viewed the exhibition to the women who shared their stories:

“Natalia – congratulations.”

“You’re all an inspiration.”

“The photos were so clever – telling the stories behind them.”

“You put your heart and soul into this.”

“You’re all real women, no matter what society makes you think.”

“You’re extremely strong.”

“It must have been tough to see it through to the end – it’s amazing.”

“Thank you for sharing.”

One of the members of the group said that these women and others like them are never allowed to forget that they were involved in the sex industry, whether it is a secret they have to carry for the rest of their lives, or the knowledge that other people judge you because of it. This exhibition is an opportunity to start making the changes which are needed. This exhibition is a chance to show everybody the impact on the women involved.

I would like to say thank you to the women whose stories were told through the exhibition but I would also like to thank the women at ReConnect for allowing me to hear their stories too.”

 

Joanne B.

 

 

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