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The Story of Marta: “He controlled every step of my way”

At the age of 17, I had a newborn, and soon after that I developed a relationship with a man. Everything happened very quickly, we moved to a small village, rented an apartment with two rooms, everything seemed great. I was also relieved to leave my abusive parents, who had never said one kind word towards me.

One day he came home without the usual uniform on because he had lost his job, at that moment he put me in front of a fact – I will have to sell my body for us to survive. As before, he made money, now it’s my turn.

He created a profile on the intimate service portal. He threatened me the most with the possibility of taking the child away if I disobeyed his plan. He said he would “do his best to take my child away because I can’t take care of them.”

I obeyed his conditions, became his toy doll, fulfilling what he wanted. I sold myself with terrible disgust. Every time he took the money and went to the gaming halls, and all the money he received from strangers for my use, he gambled away.

Several times I wanted to take my child and belongings and walk away. One time he locked me in the apartment and turned off the electricity and left. I was still breastfeeding at the time. He controlled every step of my way, every conversation, I was under constant stress.

There were times when I wanted to jump from the 5th floor to end it all. Maybe the hell I was drawn into, and with me my child, would end. I started to hate myself with each passing moment.

There was a situation when a police representative came to me to make a “check purchase”, and of course I was fined 350 euros, because the law on prostitution was violated as there was a minor child in the apartment. The child was in the apartment because that way he could control me more easily, he knew I would obey his ultimatum because I was afraid for the safety of the children.

Unfortunately, the police could not see that I had been used as a victim of human trafficking.

I believe that there are still a lot of women in Latvia who are sexually exploited by their partners or pimps, and they do what they are told to do because they are afraid of the consequences if they cannot escape.

I was helped by the Orphans’ Court and the social service with the service of the crisis centre, and my children were not taken away, but no one saw that I was a victim of human trafficking, everyone was stereotyped and assumed that this was just a family conflict, domestic violence issue and my own choice to be sexually exploited. But only people who have been exposed to it are able to understand these traumatic experiences and the consequences they have for a person’s future life, both emotionally and physically.

I was very helped by the State-paid social rehabilitation service for victims of human trafficking, which lasts up to 180 days, but even within this set period there is no possibility to fully recover from the traumatic event and start an independent life if you have nothing.

I would like to appeal to anyone who is in a situation like my own, when they have to provide sexual services or other work against their will, so that they find a little strength to seek help.

*The name has been changed due to safety reasons.

The text is written by a Survivor, with the help from Centre MARTA in Latvia.