Ruhama, a charity that helps women affected by prostitution and sex trafficking, has released a video containing real voicemails left to a fictitious prostitute.
The ‘Andreea’ project was launched as part of the Penny For Your Thoughts campaign which is a European multi-city art project designed to raise awareness of sex trafficking across Europe and beyond.
‘Andreea’ – a silhouette image posed seductively above a phone number – was ‘advertised’ in a variety of busy locations across Dublin and beyond.
Callers were greeted by a voicemail of a bubbly young woman with an Eastern European accent who says she’s “sensual” and “available for loads of fun.”
The voicemail takes a dark turn when she reveals that she was trafficked into Ireland’s sex trade, and says that if she defies “the man who brought her here”, she’ll be in trouble. She goes on to say that the man promised her a childcare job in Ireland, only to coerce her into prostitution.
She closed the voicemail with a plea for help before asking the caller to leave her a message with their thoughts.
Despite making it clear that she has been trafficked, 68% of those who called wished know more about her “services”.
In just 20 days, ‘Andreea’ received 759 calls, 314 texts, and 37 voicemails. An analysis into 209 of these contacts revealed that 82% of callers were concerned about the sexual services ‘Andreea’ provides, and enquired about her prices.
Sarah Benson, CEO of Ruhama, said: “We were immediately struck by the extent to which sex buyers saw ‘Andreea’ more as a service or a product, rather than an actual person. The language they used and the way they communicated with ‘Andreea’ just confirms to us the dehumanising nature of prostitution that so many of the women we support describe experiencing.
“Shockingly, 68% of those who left voicemails, who had the opportunity to listen to ‘Andreea’s’ message and learn that she had been sex trafficked, still persisted in enquiring about the services she was offering. They displayed a completely callous disregard for a victim of Ireland’s vicious sex trade. These buyers were only concerned with their own sexual gratification and getting the kind of sex acts they wanted, and did not seem to care that this was at the expense of a vulnerable woman in a clearly difficult situation.”
An analysis of the calls shows that the most popular requests included explicit photos, threesomes, anal sex, various sex acts specifically without a condom and ‘sex chats’.
Sarah Benson concluded: “If we really want equality for women and girls then we must fight against the proliferation of the sex trade and the culture of male sexual entitlement it is predicated upon. This includes holding sex buyers to account for their actions and challenging their view of women as mere commodities.”
Ruhama urges anyone who finds themselves in a difficult situation in Ireland’s sex trade, or who is concerned about someone they know, to contact them for support on (01) 836 0292, or text the word REACH for free to 50100