I’m excited to have a guest on board here at Bipolar For Life: Ruth Jacobs, author of the upcoming best-selling novel series Soul Destruction. Part one of the series, Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, will be released worldwide on April 29, 2013.
Soul Survivor: Ruth’s gritty, hard-hitting novel features a more-or-less close-knit group of friends who have at least two things in common: drugs, and prostitution. So what is this book doing on my blog, which tries its best to stay focused on mental health and child abuse issues? Probably because this group of tough customers has more than just two things in common.
Let’s read a passage from Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, and then we can ask Ruth to help us understand.
Aunt Elsie made tea and they sat on their usual white stools at the white, plastic table in the kitchen. Elsie, as always, sat facing the back door and Shelley, facing the hall. From her chair, she could see the picture frames that stood on the hall table. Although she couldn‘t see the pictures, she knew each one from memory. The pictures were of happier times: baby pictures of her and William, a school picture of William when he was about ten, a school picture of Shelley taken around the same time, putting her at seven or eight, and a picture of them both with their mother before she became ill. That last picture, taken in Brighton in the summer of 1983, was from the last holiday they‘d had with just the three of them. Until that year, Rita had taken her and William to Brighton every summer. Neither she nor her mother had been back since, but William had, once.
Shelley gulped her tea and apologised to her aunt for the short visit. On her way to the front door, she stopped at the hall table. It was the missing pictures she noticed. There was no record from that last holiday until she was fifteen years old and William was seventeen. As if those years in between had never existed. Of course, they had. They all wanted to forget them. But how could she erase them when she‘d endured them? However much she tried, those years wouldn‘t stop replaying in her head. That‘s what caused the rage, the despair, and the excruciating pain that fed on her soul.
S/S: Ruth, this passage starts out looking pretty normal. I mean, prostitutes don’t have aunts named Elsie with whom they have tea every week, do they? What, you’re telling me that prostitutes are people like you and me? Shocking. But wait, reading on, we find that things are not so happy as they once were. There seems to be a skeleton in the family closet, perhaps?
You and I have had some conversations regarding prostitution and what might set the stage for a girl or woman to become caught up in it. Can you talk a bit about that, in the context of the passage we’ve quoted? What is it here that might have propelled Shelley in the direction she’s taken? Something happened, didn’t it, something terrible, it seems….
Ruth: Yes, something terrible did happen. I don’t want to give any spoilers about the book for people who will be reading it, but I think it’s very important to know that a large percentage of people in prostitution have a history of being abused as children, whether that be physical and/or sexual abuse. Childhood abuse can set them up as targets for pimps and traffickers. Many women in prostitution started as children. Children do not make these choices. They may be forced by another, they may be homeless, as some I know have been, and out of desperation for a roof over their head for a night or something to eat, they turn to prostitution. For some they have been treated and viewed as sex objects and feel that is their worth. There are more complexities in this, and studies and research into the links between childhood abuse and prostitution have been conducted. For anyone who would like to understand more, my dissertation on prostitution, which I undertook back in the late 1990s, can be read freely here http://soul-destruction.com/on-prostitution.
S/S: Let’s go on to another scene from your book.
Emotionally exhausted, Shelley slept until a nightmare woke her late afternoon. Swaddled in her favourite duvet, she shuffled along the cold, black and white floor tiles in the kitchen. She poured a glass of water and took it through to the lounge. She landed herself on the sofa, then picked up one of her new, sparkling dessert spoons and began cooking up her fix.
What she‘d heard from Tara yesterday shocked her. Not that another call girl would have a past like that, most of the hookers she knew did. The shock was that Tara knew what she had gone through as a child, yet hadn‘t confided in her. Was it her fault Tara had never been able to tell her? Possibly not – Tara hadn‘t told Nicole either. But Shelley knew she could have been a better friend. There were things she could have done differently, things she could have said differently, and things she could have not said at all. She remembered the cruel words she‘d spoken the day before.
Guilt grew from her gut and permeated her body. Her breathing shallowed. This had to be a big hit. It would take more heroin and crack than usual to change this feeling. This feeling on top of her grief, her anger, and her fears had done more than add to them. It felt as if they‘d all been amplified. The noise had to be muted.
The speedball she‘d prepared was overgenerous but essential. She needed to get to nirvana. Without a tourniquet, she squeezed her wrist and went straight for a visible vein in her hand.
She fell back on the sofa and thought this time she might die. This was overdose territory. She lost control of her body as she convulsed. She tried to scream for help but no words came, not recognisable words. She could hear herself babbling but couldn‘t tell if she was making those sounds or if they were coming from inside her head.
S/S: Now we’re hearing Shelley’s shock upon finding that her friend Tara, too, has things hidden in her past, things that she’s been unable to speak about, and Shelley’s over-amplified guilt at seeing herself as not having been a better friend.
Ruth, why would that upset Shelley to the point where she nearly kills herself to get away from the pain?
Ruth: It’s not that alone that brings Shelley to this point. Already being in an extremely dark place, the situation with Tara tips her over the edge. Shelley carries guilt that does not belong to her, as many survivors of abuse do, whether that be childhood abuse or being raped as an adult, for example. This victim-blaming culture perpetuates that. For example, when a woman is raped, some people will blame that rape on what she was wearing, whether she was drunk or had taken drugs, if she was out late at night alone etc. The rape is the fault of the rapist and no one else.
Shelley is a sensitive, kind and caring young woman. She is quick to take on responsibility for caretaking others, as she had as a child within her family, and still does during the time the novel is set in her early twenties. She feels inadequate, not good enough, in many ways. From being at the receiving end of abuse in her childhood and the negative messages that go along with that, she speaks to herself in that same way. In transactional analysis, a branch of psychiatry, it is said we have three ego states: parent, adult and child. The parent ego state is formed by what we hear from our parents/guardians as children. If they are berating when we are children, those ‘recordings’ play out in our heads as adults. It is possible to change these, but I have struggled with it myself.
S/S: So how does child abuse feed into prostitution? What percentage of prostituted women were abused as children? Is there a differential between different types of abuse, like physical, emotional, or sexual? Does that matter?
Ruth: Various studies have been conducted in this. The figure I have from my dissertation is that 75% of women in prostitution have been victims of childhood sexual and physical abuse (WHISPER Oral History Project, 1987). A more recent UK study revealed that 45% suffered sexual abuse and 85% suffered physical abuse within their families (Home Office 2006).
From my personal experience of knowing many women in prostitution and many who have exited, all those I have discussed childhood abuse with have suffered that themselves. I have also known some men in prostitution, though only a few, and again, all those who I discussed childhood abuse with had suffered that too. Some people in prostitution have suffered emotional and verbal abuse in childhood. And there are some who will not have suffered abuse as children. But there is clearly a very strong link between childhood abuse and prostitution.
S/S: Thanks so much, Ruth, for helping us to understand some links between childhood abuse and prostitution. As a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist, I saw many young people who had ended up on the streets doing whatever they needed to do to stay alive. Many of them had to resort to prostitution just to buy food and have a place to stay at night, although many were homeless, largely due to drug addiction that ate up all their money. When they came into my clinic, I had a golden opportunity to talk with them and ask about why they were out on the streets instead of living at home. Many cited “mom’s boyfriend” who was either currently sexually abusing them or trying to. Others spoke of ongoing physical abuse since early childhood; others said that their parents “just didn’t care about them and they felt better just being on their own.” Often, I just couldn’t hold my tears back and sometimes they cried too, although most had trained themselves to have a tough exterior, out of necessity.
More about Ruth Jacobs and her writings:
Enter the bleak existence of a call girl haunted by the atrocities of her childhood. In the spring of 1997, Shelley Hansard is a drug addict with a heroin habit and crack psychosis. Her desirability as a top London call girl is waning.
When her client dies in a suite at The Lanesborough Hotel, Shelley’s complex double-life is blasted deeper into chaos. In her psychotic state, the skills required to keep up her multiple personas are weakening. Amidst her few friends, and what remains of her broken family, she struggles to maintain her wall of lies.
During this tumultuous time, she is presented with an opportunity to take revenge on a client who raped her and her friends. But in her unbalanced state of mind, can she stop a serial rapist?
Soul Destruction: Unforgivable is released 29 April 2013. Available worldwide from all major online retailers in paperback and e-book. Pre-orders are available direct from Caffeine Nights.
Further information and contact details:
Ruth Jacobs’s Amazon author page –
Soul Destruction website: http://soul-destruction.com
Author Website: http://ruthjacobs.co.uk
Ruth Jacobs Bio
Ruth Jacobs writes a series of novels entitled Soul Destruction, which expose the dark world and the harsh reality of life as a call girl. Her debut novel, Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, is released on 29 April 2013 by Caffeine Nights. Ruth studied prostitution in the late 1990s, which sparked her interest in the subject. She draws on her research and the women she interviewed for inspiration. She also has firsthand experience of many of the topics she writes about such as posttraumatic stress disorder, rape, and drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to her fiction writing, Ruth is also involved in non-fiction for her charity and human rights campaigning work in the areas of anti-sexual exploitation and anti-human trafficking.