When God created man he wasn’t concentrating on it properly,
Julianna, an escaped victim of sex trafficking, wrote in a diary that was recently published in The Independent (U.K)
It comes from a series of remarkable journal entries that mark more sinister growing pains than those of the average teenager becoming acquainted with the ways of the world.
The Seneca-quoting 19-year-old Hungarian, who imagined a job something like Julia Roberts’ in Pretty Woman when she answered an advertisement for three weeks of “erotic work” in the U.K., thought it would be a bearable (though not ideal) way to earn money for tuition and a motorbike. Like so many trafficked women before her, she found herself locked in an apartment with other women, deprived of her full wages, and forced to sleep with men who abused and degraded her. To keep he spirit alive, she kept a hidden diary:
To write, or not to write … I had my first guest. I cannot put my feelings into words. I only know that I am hurting. And I am feeling sick. Now, immediately, I would get on the first plane to go home. I would forget the whole thing. Just one bad dream… When the phone starts ringing it means the client is coming. I am ageing fast with these minutes and my hair is turning grey. I hate men more as every minute passes …
The clients are coming and going. I am totally drunk all the time. I don’t eat, but drink, yes! Let me introduce you to my new best friends: Ouzo, Rosé (or any wine), Palinka, Vodka. I can’t sleep. I cry every morning like someone fearing they would be beaten up. It has become so usual now I don’t even notice it. I really miss Mum, Dad and Nan. I cry and beg for them every morning.
Julianna and the other women were eventually able to escape, and police are now using her diary as evidence against their traffickers. Read the full version here.
Last night I attended a Passover ceremony for the first time, and while sharing the bread and communion of the Seder table, the head of the ceremony brought up the question of the duality of freedom– the twin liberties of “freedom to” versus “freedom from.” Meditating on the flight of the Jews from the slavery of Egypt, I couldn’t help being reminded of Julianna’s diary entry, where she reflected with everyday straightforwardness from the pit of her sexual imprisonment:
According to Seneca, freedom is not when you do what you want. Freedom is when you don’t do things you don’t want. And he is right.
Surely it’s far more nuanced than that, but it leaves me wondering how disentangled these distinctions ever really become in the confusing and oppressive mire of slavery, where the freedom to fully live up to the potential of our humanity is inextricable from the freedom from living in captivity, fear, and degradation.
(Header image: Phillipa Willitts)