Tracy Kennett used to be a prostitute and a drug addict. Despite enduring a violent husband, homelessness, prison, losing custody of her children, and a leg amputation due to drug damage, she escaped prostitution and drugs four years ago, supported by the Magdalene Group project in Norwich.
“My husband first introduced me to amphetamines and heroin when I was 23 and we were both unemployed. I needed money to care for my family and for drugs, so I became a prostitute. That’s what happens to most of the women out there working on the streets.
We were living in a b&b at the time with a baby and toddler and I was desperate for cash. The only other way I could have got the £300 a day I needed for drugs was by shoplifting. But that might have meant going to prison and my children needed me.
The first time I went with a punter I cried all the way through. I felt disgusted. Most punters don’t care about you. As a prostitute you don’t exist, you are just a shell. You’re not a person, you’re an object, a sex object.
Men like the power they have over prostitutes, that’s why the girls get raped. They drive you out to the middle of nowhere and rape you, just because they can. I was held for over six hours once.
Nothing is done when women are raped, especially working girls. The police I have found really helpful, but not the crown prosecution service.
Three of my best friends have been killed while working as prostitutes.
Working girls are threatened with murder by punters. If you’ve got kids you do what they say because you’re scared for what might happen to them.
My addiction led to me becoming homeless and I was living in a garage with my five month old baby and toddler. I also had to have one of my legs amputated because of drugs.
My mum got full custody of my children when my husband was violent but I see them often. The relationship’s not the same as it was though.
Prostitutes have many problems but we don’t get any sympathy from the public. To them we are just another prostitute, not somebody’s wife or girlfriend.
But with the help of the Magdalene Group charity, I came off drugs four years ago and started sorting out my life. To get better, you have to focus on yourself and forget everything else. The project was always there for me and didn’t judge.
Now I’m a respite carer for disabled children and I also volunteer and help homeless people, drug addicts and working girls and men. I give talks to teenagers about my experiences, to explain what drugs can do to you.
I’m doing some good and keeping my mind occupied too. I’m determined to help make a difference.”