Erica was treated ‘like an animal’ for years at Amsterdam’s Red Light District. “The fact that I got out is all thanks to God’s mercy”
Erica grew up in a large family in Hungary and she had a good childhood. But when her dad became an alcoholic and she got mixed up in bad relationships, it went wrong. “I ended up at Amsterdam’s Red Light District, where I was literally treated like an animal. I felt very unsafe.” In this article, she explains how she was converted thanks to Bright Fame’s work and how she found the strength to start building a new life since 2020.
Erica had a nice childhood in Hungary, she explains. ‘I was living with my parents and my sister and it was well. My life got ‘real’ later on”, she tells, hinting at the serious challenges that were about to come.
Her dad became an alcoholic and fought with her mom in front of her eyes. That’s why Erica had trouble sleeping. “My life changed so much, it wasn’t even funny anymore. I moved out of my parents’ home to move in with my boyfriend. In the three years I lived with him, I had three children.
However, we had a lot of financial struggles that caused him to go into crime and get stuck there. It was a very difficult time. We really needed the money. I was left with the three children.”
She found shelter with her children at a building that hosted gatherings. However, child protection noticed her and took her children into care.
“I ended up in Austria, to be a “hostess”- like the advert had described. I would welcome people at a bar. When I got there, it turned out to be a strip club where I had to do prostitution work. At first, I was obviously shocked, but I told myself: ‘I want to be able to help my children and give them things.’ Especially because of my kids, I wanted to do this job.”
The conversation continues at the office of the Bright Fame Foundation, where Frits Rouvoet is present, too. He picks up on the conversation, to give more context. “I was very touched by the story of you walking down the street with your baby in your arms and the little children next to you, having to sleep anywhere. That’s terrible.” Erica: “Yes, it was a nightmare, especially during the Winters.”
Still, her job in Austria was terrible, too. “I worked in dark spaces where I had to sell myself for money. I cried every day. I had to force myself to start working again. There were a lot of women there.”
Once per three weeks, Erica would return to Hungary to visit her kids. This time with plenty enough money. They would go to cinema’s, the pool or the zoo. The children had a lot of fun, too.
Red Light District
Her sister was living in Amsterdam at that time and asked her to try something new in Amsterdam. On top of that, she met some people at a club in Hungary who also had a ‘nice job’ for her. Even though it was somewhat vague, she decided to exchange Austria for the Netherlands. That was a terrible trade.
“I immediately realised that everything was much more civilized in Austria. There, you would have a drink with people at the bar and go to a darkroom to have sex. Contrarily, in Amsterdam it was rough and harsh. People from different nationalities would ask the most bizarre things. They come in, intimidatingly, and treat you like an animal. They come in aggressively, saying: ‘I pay for you, so do this and that.’ It is disrespectful and unsafe.”
Despite this, Erica couldn’t just refuse people, because she needed the income for when she returned home. “You have to be happy with every client you get.” There is an alarm system you can use as a sex worker if a situation becomes threatening, but it barely functioned. Often, when you would use it, the police didn’t show up or showed up too late.
Frits illustrates this with an example. “The other day, there was a guy who tried to ‘choke’ a girl. At the last moment she pushed the alarm button and he ran away naked, leaving his credit card behind. I went up to her to help. The police came to me saying: ‘Why did you go in there, that’s dangerous for you.’ I found that answer conclusive. If it’s that dangerous, why did it take so long before the police come? By the way, the police are trying their best, its mostly the system.”
In the meantime, this woman is stuck with a huge trauma. In 2009, one prostitute was even killed. “That was a big shock for me, because I knew that woman.” Erica tells. Erica: “People say that the Netherlands is a wealthy and good country. It is true that a lot of beautiful families live here. People with a good education and job. But even those people come to the Red Light. And then I always wonder: ‘What are they missing?”
During the first lockdown in 2020, Erica eventually came into contact with Frits Rouvoet. She had known him longer, but now she stated that she hoped she would be able to get out of prostitution with God’s help. Frits: “That was the sign for me, I knew she was going to make it.”
Eventually, she became part of Bright Fame’s group ‘Coming Together’. The group is organised each Friday evening, since the lockdown. Women meet each other there and look for God together. “That really made me feel like: ‘I’m not alone, I can get out.’ Together we strengthen each other and find God’s power. That’s beautiful.”
“I put my life in God’s hands and I started praying a lot. God has answered my prayers. Now, I’m healing from the trauma’s I got in Amsterdam. I’m also in therapy for this. Even though I’m not really focussing on my future, yet, I believe God has something beautiful in store for me.”