I want to tell you about Veronique.

Now, of course, it’s possible that wasn’t her name at all. I tend to make up names for people when I don’t know what they are. And when I was young if I didn’t like a name–when I thought it didn’t quite suit a person–then I made up a new one. Veronique may be entirely made up.

I went to high school with a Clive and a Virginie. Other people referred to them as Mark and Brandy. But I felt Clive and Virginie suited them better. And who knows? Maybe I was right. Maybe we have a name buried deep within ourselves that reflects who we really are and I was good at digging down and finding it.

But let’s call her Veronique, even though she may have been called Svetlana or Natalya or Nadja. Because I will never know her real name anyway. She might not remember it either.

There is an overlap between prostitution and pornography, although one is an illegal industry and the other is legal. Street prostitutes often participate in or create their own pornographic images as a part of their services. Women who act in pornographic films also work as prostitutes.
There is an overlap between prostitution and pornography, although one is an illegal industry and the other is legal. Street prostitutes often participate in or create their own pornographic images as a part of their services. Women who act in pornographic films also work as prostitutes.

Veronique was a porn actress. And before you call up images of a teenage Ashana mooning over full-cover spreads of a big-breasted woman with her legs wide open, let me explain that I was on camera right along with her.

I should probably also tell you I was 12 and 13. The braces were off, but I was definitely at that awful age when you are still very much a child, but all these weird things are happening to you. You’re oily and smell bad and can’t figure out that you need a shower every day, and your body has these odd new feelings. Skin cleanser ranks high in your list of priorities, or it should anyway. And it’s just generally pretty terrible.

I went to school and we talked about Shakespeare in English class and linear equations in math. I had crushes on girly-looking boys and thought a lot about dying. And on Saturdays I got it on with Veronique.

I don’t know what to call sex acts you are coerced into performing with another person in front of a camera. It is rape, but the rape is perpetrated by someone who does not need to touch you at all.

And although I was a young adolescent and Veronique was a grown woman, we were both being raped when we touched each other. It is both more and less horrifying than the perpetrator assaulting you directly himsef. The particular terror and degradation of being sexual with someone else in front of others because you have no other choice is very difficult to describe.

But I wanted to tell you about Veronique. She spoke about five words of English. She was, in fact, blonde and big-breasted. But the blonde could have come out of a bottle. I suppose her breasts were her own. And she had no escape. I’m not sure she cared much about that anymore. I’m not sure she cared about much of anything anymore. I’m not sure she felt there was any hope anymore.

Not everyone who acts in pornographic films is in that situation, but I’m quite certain that was the situation for her. Unless you are a pedophile, you don’t molest young girls on camera for the money. You don’t do it because it seems like a good time. You do it because you have to. Everyone has a line. That’s over the line.

I’ll tell you another little secret about sex trafficking. Women who are trafficked do not look sad, the way they do on the posters. They look however the director or the john wants them to.

A part of being a slave involves doing what your master wants you to do, and that can mean smiling, or looking seductive, or faking an orgasm. It can mean you say, “Put it there, big daddy,” or “Fuck me harder,” regardless of how you feel: which might really be disgusted or frightened or just plain bored. It might be tired and that you really wish you could sleep but you have to finish this scene or fill your quota for the night.

The slaves of my ancestors picked cotton and washed dishes. Modern slaves perform sex acts with a smile or in tears–whatever the john wants. Because only his feelings matter.

So mostly victims of sex trafficking look vacant. I mean, if you look carefully. Underneath the smile or the smirk or the ecstasy. They dissociate as much as they can. Dissociation is the only way out.

So Veronique smiled and looked seductive and faked orgasms and sometimes probably had real ones–whether or not she wanted to. And her five words of English were all words you might say during a very pleasurable sex act, even though this was not one. And she really wasn’t there. Not at all. Touching her was like touching a ghost.

I am again and again grateful that I am not her, and that I was not in a strange land with no one to help me and no one to turn to or trust. I am grateful that I had the chance to go to school and to college and when I left my captors I had no family for someone to threaten to kill. I am grateful that I had more choices than she had.

I am grateful also that she was a visible and urgent reminder of what would become of me if I did not get the hell out. That I would become a shell of a person who no longer cared about myself–and not much about anyone else. You just get through the day, because in the end, you don’t really have a choice, do you? There is no hope, but they don’t give you razor blades either. I am grateful to her for silently urging me to leave before I became what she was.

And I am sorry I could not help her. That we both did what we had to do. And what I had to do did not involve going back to save her. Just as what she had to do involved harming me.

What I really want to tell you about Veronique is this: She understood what was being done to me, and she did nothing to make it worse. Sometimes that’s the most you can do for anyone. It’s the most she could do for me.

It has been almost 3 decades since I last saw her.  She would be in her late 40s or early 50s now. I am quite sure she’s dead. Veronique, I have never forgotten you. I am sorry the rest of the world did.

23 thoughts on “Veronique

  1. lori April 7, 2013 / 12:50 pm

    very moving.

  2. Faune April 7, 2013 / 9:03 pm

    What a heart wrenching story told here. Perhaps the saddest part is that it’s true and still happens frequently here in America, due to sick people who use others.

    • Ashana M April 8, 2013 / 3:06 am

      Thank you for reading it.

  3. Perfectly Paralyzed Pet April 7, 2013 / 9:28 pm

    One of the few things I enjoy on your blogs aside from you deep insights on matters is your tales of horror. Maybe enjoy is not the right term. I apologize.
    Though I don’t post much of the what happened to me in the past; I find comfort in knowing someone had it worse. I haven’t found that in real life. I have only found it here, online. I have heard stories of abuse from my circles in real life, but nothing holds a candle to my previous existence.
    My childhood was a twisted abused sadistic one. But pales in comparison to yours. I’m still working on talking about it all and admire your ability to be so open. And your other posts regarding psychology and healing have helped me understand myself more as well.
    Thank you so much.
    I empathize deeply with your past and pain. Both then and now.

    • Ashana M April 8, 2013 / 3:09 am

      I’m glad you enjoy my blog and find it useful.

      Writing about it helps, and I hope that it helps others either to understand what those around them might be going through or to know they are are not alone.

      Take care.

  4. jzrart April 8, 2013 / 9:03 am

    Tough read. I so appreciate your honesty. So sorry.

    • Ashana M April 8, 2013 / 10:50 am

      Thank you for reading it. It isn’t easy to be there for each other and support one another. I appreciate your doing it.

  5. harshii April 8, 2013 / 9:39 am

    Oh God, this made me cry ……. you’ve gone through a lot of terrible things, no wonder your posts are so soothing. It is true, that sometimes the maximum you can do is do nothing to make it worse …… I am so glad you got out of that situation! You are a beautiful person, I am glad you are here today, because reading your posts helps me so much!

    • Ashana M April 8, 2013 / 10:53 am

      I’m glad I can be helpful to you. Thank you for telling me that.

      I think sometimes we can get so caught up in worrying over problems that are too big for us to fix, that we forget what small thing there is that we can do. It take that reminder from what people have done for me.

  6. desilef April 8, 2013 / 9:44 am

    This was so painful to read, I had to put it aside yesterday and come back to it today. Now there’s no way I can forget you or Veronique. Will always hope the world opens up good things for you and for her wherever she may be.

    • Ashana M April 8, 2013 / 10:54 am

      Thank you for taking the time to read it and for the good wishes.

      Take care.

  7. cavemum April 8, 2013 / 10:54 am

    What powerful writing. It makes the porn world seems all the more sick. The only way that women can think it’s OK or cool to go to a fancy dress party ‘as a porn’ star is that they haven’t read the real life stories of people involved int this hideous, abusive trade. I am so glad for you that you got out and did not become a ghost Veronique.

    • Ashana M April 8, 2013 / 6:58 pm

      It isn’t always this bad, but pornography as an industry tends toward abusive practices. I’m also not sure it’s possible to create pornography without degrading the women in it. I think people don’t see this partly because they don’t understand that there are thousands of men and women being filmed or photographed for pornography. Very, very few of them are stars. And if you aren’t a star, your place in the porn world is very different. But what we see in public are the stars.

      Thanks again for your kind thoughts.

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