Rachel Moran grew up in Dublin. She came from an impoverished, troubled family. Both of her parents struggled with serious mental illness and addictions. Her mother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and she abused prescription drugs. Her father was bi-polar and a compulsive gambler.
Things were so bad at home that Rachel made a serious suicide attempt at the age of eleven. A few years later, Rachel’s father committed suicide, after which her mother’s mental health severely deteriorated and she became increasingly physically abusive to Rachel. Unable to tolerate her mother’s relentless raging, Rachel left home at age fourteen.
Within a short period of time, she was taken into state care and was soon assigned to a group home. After a brief stay at the home, Rachel ran away and became homeless and destitute. She soon met a young man, several years older than her, who became her “protector” and encouraged her to become a prostitute shortly after she turned fifteen.
Homeless, cold and hungry, Rachel was desperate and literally “in survival.” Despite her initial revulsion to having to perform sex acts with strangers, she gradually forced herself to tolerate circumstances that were both dangerous and repugnant to her. She was popular in the streets because she was beautiful and young. Rachel quickly learned to numb herself to what was threatening and abhorrent to her. She came to understand that shutting out her feelings was a requirement for her survival.
While in “the trade,” Rachel honed the skills that are necessary in order to continue tolerating situations that were fundamentally intolerable to her healthier instincts. She learned to disassociate from her experience in order to convince herself that it wasn’t happening to her, but to someone else. She also learned to control any involuntary impulses that might be distasteful to her clients including vomiting, or expressions of anger, disgust, or emotions of any kind. She quickly developed great expertise in these and other skills, and consequently became popular and relatively wealthy. She remained in the trade for seven years, alternating as a street worker, and as a private escort. Rachel was 22 years old when she saw her last client. She kicked her years-long drug habit at the same time and has been clean and sober ever since.
Rachel’s experiences as a prostitute challenged many of the beliefs that she had previously held about that world. One of the things that she learned that she found surprising was that street prostitutes are less at risk than those working in brothels and escort services. This has to do with the fact that there is generally less violence toward street workers, partially because they have a chance to (briefly) meet and therefore assess perspective customers, enabling them to sense if they are dangerous, while those in brothels and escort services have appointments made for them by others.
She also found out that the idea of the “Happy Hooker” is a myth, not a reality. Nearly all of the very many prostitutes she got to know over the years were anything but happy with the lives that they were living. Having known large numbers of women in the sex trade, Rachel saw first hand the terrible toll it takes on their sense of self to sell their bodies, and to numb themselves against the repulsion of unwanted hands pawing them. She also blows up the myth of the high class call girl, describing how they are ALL (no matter how well-paid) humiliated and degraded. She dispels the myth of the prostitute’s sexual pleasure, testifying that no one enjoys being handled and poked by a man with whom she would not choose to interact if he was not paying her. Rachel is also strongly opposed to the legalization of prostitution. She believes that to do so is to condone behaviors that are inherently cruel, humiliating, and destructive to the souls and bodies of human beings.
When Rachel began to write about her experiences, she submitted an article to a British women’s magazine, and was shocked to find a check in the mail for her article. That check opened a whole new world of possibilities to her. She went back to school to learn to use a computer. At the age of twenty-four she entered a path of higher education. She earned a degree in journalism from Dublin City University where she won the Hybrid Award for excellence in journalism.
Rachel has spent more than half of her life in recovery from her time as a prostitute and from her drug habit, which she developed early on as a means of coping with the stress of her lifestyle. She entered into psychotherapy out of her commitment to thawing the frozen feeling that she had denied throughout her years of prostitution. Her therapy has enabled her to come to terms with and ultimately release the feelings of pain, shame, guilt, and grief that had accumulated and remained unacknowledged over the years.
In the course of her recovery, Rachel has re-awakened feelings of her own sexual desire and pleasure that had been in the deep freeze since age fifteen. She had feared that they would never return, but she was grateful to discover that she was wrong. Equally important, she found that she was capable of experiencing deep love, vulnerability, and openheartedness.
Rachel still lives in Dublin and lectures internationally on prostitution and sex trafficking. She speaks to young girls in residential care and warns them about the dangers of prostitution. As a wounded healer, she attempts to prevent them from entering into the horrors of physical abuse and degradation that she suffered during the seven years before she escaped. She is also active in an effort to bring awareness to the public and to pass legislation that will reduce prostitution worldwide. She is the founder of SPACE International (Survivors of Prostitution Abuse Calling for Enlightenment) and the author of her memoir, Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution.