Regina massage parlour worker fears for her safety

A Regina woman who worked at a massage parlour in the city for two years says she suffered abuse and humiliation and is now struggling to escape that life.

Prostitute says she was often beaten by johns

Sarah did not want her identity revealed because she is fearful of her pimp. (CBC)

A Regina woman who worked at a massage parlour in the city for two years says she suffered abuse and humiliation and is now struggling to escape that life.

"I want to get out. I want to be done with this. I want people to leave me alone." explained Sarah, who doesn't want to be identified because she's afraid of her pimp. CBC News is using the name Sarah for this story.

In a recent interview, Sarah told CBC's iTeam she has been trying to leave prostitution for months but her pimp insists she owes him a lot of money.

"He actually threatened me," she said. "He still wants money. He's still threatening me. It's kind of making me want to work, just so I can pay him the money he wants. But I don't want to do that anymore."

Lured to the work on promise of riches

Sarah's work in a massage parlour began with a desperate need for money, she said. In 2011 she was broke. But she noticed one of her friends always seemed to have a plentiful source of cash.

It turns out her friend was an escort, a job Sarah said she did not fully understand.

"She had to explain to me what [they] do," Sarah said. Her friend told her an escort does not always sleep with a client.

"She's like 'You don't sleep with men. You just see them,'" Sarah said. However, the friend also added, "You don't have to sleep with them if you don't want to, but they'll pay for it."

That set her to considering joining her friend.

"It was like, I wonder if I should do that too," she said.

Sarah went to the friend's massage parlour and was flattered by the attention she received from the owner.

"She said 'Oh you're a really pretty girl. When do you want to start?'" Sarah recalled, and it wasn't long before she agreed to work at the massage parlour.

Marketing begins

In time the massage parlour owner suggested Sarah could be presented as a Hawaiian or Filipino.

I was always like drunk or tipsy just so I could do it.- Sarah

"It seems like I was a product to be sold," she said. She was also taught how to massage a man and was given instruction in different ways to put on a condom.

In the parlour Sarah said she and her co-workers wore skimpy clothing or lingerie. A massage would begin on a client's back, as he lay on his stomach.

"[Then] you tell them to turn around and you'll massage their stomach," she said. One day, she said, a customer was particularly attracted to her.

"He's like, 'I want her,'" she said. A co-worker encouraged her to agree to what the client wanted and she did.

"I just did it. I felt bad," she said. "I was always like drunk or tipsy just so I could do it."

Regular 'tricks' followed

Before long, Sarah began a two-year stretch of regular "tricks" with a range of customers that surprised her including married men and professionals like doctors, professors and firefighters.

She said she often made several hundred dollars in a night and that her boss always took a cut. Encounters with clients would be booked by staff at the massage parlour for meetings at a sparsely decorated three-bedroom condo where she worked with two to three other women at a time.

Her services, she said, were often sought at unusual hours of the day.

"Sometimes .... I'd have to stay the night just to get money [and] I'd get woken up [with] 'Somebody's here to see you. Get ready,'" she said. "And it's like, five o'clock in the morning."

That was especially hard on her because she was going to university at the time and she would have to study in between tricks.

"It's distracting," she said. "I guess because you would think about what's going on at work but then you'd still be thinking about what paper you have to write."

Violence from a client

Sarah said she also encountered violence from customers.

"I said no to a certain service and that's when he started. He almost raped me," she said. She recalls many occasions when johns would attack.

"About over 10 to 15 times," she said. "Being slapped or punched or kicked or even pushed."

Sarah said she is now in hiding, from her pimp, who she says has also beaten her.

"I don't know how I could get out because I don't know where to get that money from, just for him to leave me alone," she said.

Sarah said she has not reported any of the violence or threats to police.

With files from CBC's David Fraser