LONG READ: ‘Sometimes I really enjoy it... sometimes it feels like the worst job in the world’
SMARTLY dressed, wearing red designer glasses and standing outside a St Helier hotel as men in suits and staff in uniform pass by, Kate does not look out of place.
But what the hotel’s guests and employees do not know is that she is a childhood rape victim. And now, as a 54-year-old, she’s a prostitute who travels the British Isles selling sex for money – lots of money.
So much so she gave up a career as a business adviser six years ago. With her profits, she pays for the ‘best counselling’ to help her deal with the traumas she suffered as a child and is ‘making investments’ for an early retirement.
A raised eyebrow, a firm stare and a retort in a sharp Liverpudlian accent is the only response Kate gives when asked to put an exact figure on how much she can earn in a day or week.
‘Enough,’ is the eventual reply. ‘I make good money – a great living from working part-time.’
Online adverts for women such as Kate give an idea about how much the travelling escort industry might be worth to individuals. Hourly rates for in-call visits (where a client meets a sex worker) range from between £50 to £150 an hour, ‘out calls’ can be more. Overnight bookings can cost customers between £800 and £1,500.
At any time, up to 25 women – and some men – might be offering their services in Jersey on one website alone, operating from private properties or hotels. Most do not live here, but travel around cities such as London, Belfast, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
‘I’d had enough of doing 15-hour days and dealing with the stress of it all – the rat run,’ Kate said when asked about why she switched careers at the age of 48.
‘The stress pushed me into this. That, and a very close friend of mine had a stroke and it made me think about life. It was the stress of work that contributed to the stroke and she’s in nappies now. I thought “no more”, so I just started online.’
At first, Kate started ‘webcamming’ – engaging in sexual chat and performing sex acts over the internet for paying customers. The sector is one of the largest-growing sex industries in the world. Former stripper Chelsea Ferguson, from Newcastle, founded the adult entertainment website AdmireMe. She revealed online recently that she had earned £800,000 in 15 months and drives a Lamborghini.
Kate said: ‘The guys were loving the webcamming, so I thought why not do this.’
Six months after making the switch to prostitution Kate met a man – a client. He made her stop working. She says and they stayed together for three years. Once the relationship ended, she returned to work as a prostitute.
When she spoke to the JEP, she was in Jersey for the second time for a four-night trip.
Holding her red handbag, which matches her fingernails, Kate admits that she fell for a client once but never would again. She adds that she has a skill most sex workers possess: the ability to switch off emotionally.
‘I was raped as a child,’ she reveals. ‘It’s not something I really talk about too much. Lots of girls who work in this industry have had something like that happen to them and for me – you might not be surprised – it really messed me up. But for this job it means I can switch off emotionally. I don’t feel the same way other women might feel. With the sex it’s not emotion – it’s a job. It’s just work.
‘In a natural situation women have sex to get love. I want love too, of course. I want a relationship and a partner, but I have to switch off for this.’
The States police launched Operation Phoenix in 2014 in an attempt to better understand the sex industry in Jersey and safeguard working girls from coercion and trafficking. Since then, officers have worked to reach out to prostitutes and direct them to support agencies.
In the same year, Romanian national Catalin Mihail Avram was banned from the Island for three years by the Magistrate’s Court for running a brothel with two women in a flat in Green Street. One of the women was his pregnant girlfriend. Up to three more arrests were made in the years following Avram’s prosecution in relation to women being sold for sex, but the cases were dropped due to a lack of evidence.
Jersey’s prostitution laws have since been hauled into the 21st century, with the new Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 2018. Selling sex is legal, but ‘controlling prostitution’ – acting as a pimp – carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment.
But why come to Jersey as a sex worker? Why pay the high hotel prices and added cost of flights – all factors that eat into profits – to come here just for a matter of days? The answer is simple: supply and demand. During her trips Kate has seen local men, some of whom have lost their wives or partners to illness, as well as people in the Island on business.
‘There is a demand here,’ she said. ‘And the market is so saturated in England. It’s everywhere because girls hear they can make money and have a life. But I tour around and I come to Jersey – this is my second time. People have the money here to spend for services like what I offer.
‘I have never felt unsafe in the sense of threats of harm or being harmed, but some men want more. They want to build a relationship because, well, they want free sex.
‘Sometimes I really, really enjoy it. Sometimes, it’s the worst, just horrible and it feels like the worst job in the world, but I do it part-time and can go to the gym when I want and practice my meditation when I want – no more rat race.
‘I will do this for one more year and then I want to retire and have a life. God, I wish I had started 20 years ago – I’d have probably been a millionaire and retired already.’
'I'm sick to death of going completely around in a circle... we should be telling the public as soon as possible'
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