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Monday 20 October  
Behind the windows in the Red Light District
Myrtille van Bommel's picture
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Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Russian roulette in the Red Light District

Published on : 30 March 2012 - 1:55pm | By Myrtille van Bommel (Photo: Flikr/fransimo)
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Patricia Perquin worked as a prostitute in Amsterdam for over four years. She had huge debts as a result of her shopping addiction. A friend suggested she should go into prostitution to pay them off. Never, she thought. Three weeks later, she was selling her body in one of the Dutch capital’s Red Light District windows. Ms Perquin has written a book about her experiences. “There is no handbook for this life.”

At the time, Ms Perquin was panicking as personal bankruptcy was looming and she wanted to resolve the situation herself. “People often told me during those four and a half years ‘you have to switch off’. Leave your emotions behind, but I could never do that. Yet I did switch off so I could take the decision. I only realised that afterwards. Funny, I was able to do it after all, though I'm not the type of woman who goes to bed with men easily.”

High price
Although she does not regret her decision, the price was much higher than she could have imagined. Patricia Perquin led a double life; very few people know that she used to do this work. Not even her own family.

She also underestimated the risks of working as a prostitute. “If you let down your guard for a minute or even a second, you could pay with your life in the Red Light District,” she says. Once she was almost strangled by one of her regular clients. Who is prepared to take that kind of risk?

“No-one wants to play Russian roulette, watching your back and looking round just in time to make sure no-one is about to strangle you. No-one wants to undergo the humiliation I have experienced. And I probably got off lightly, if I compare my experiences with other prostitutes.”

“You cannot imagine what it's like to be a prostitute. You can't look it up. There is no handbook,” she continues. What annoys her is that so little attention is paid to what really goes on behind the facades of the Red Light District. She thinks society just has a romantic notion of the Dutch capital’s popular tourist attraction and hopes her book Behind the windows of the Red Light District will give people a more realistic picture. Ms Perquin is convinced at least 80 percent of the girls and women are forced into the sex industry.

Relationship of trust
What really makes her mad is the “millions of euros in government money” spent on helping women leave the industry. But in the end, the organisations that take the money are not even able to provide affordable accommodation, a job or benefits and psychiatric help.

Even police officers who are supposed to make sure the women are working legally and have not been coerced into prostitution get it wrong. “As a woman, you see the police drinking coffee with your landlord one minute and with you the next minute. Then you see them helping out with tours of the area organised by commercial companies. How are you supposed to build up a relationship of trust. Whose side are they on?"

“A lot of misery could be avoided if the authorities, welfare organisations and police tackled the root of the problem,” says Ms Perquin.

“Imagine you are an 18-year-old Hungarian girl. You end up in the Red Light District and don’t even know which country you are in. Your lips are pumped full of Botox, your hair is dyed blond and you are wearing a skimpy bikini. You have to allow dirty sweaty men to have their way with you for 16 to 18 hours a day. A girl like that speaks no English.

But somehow she has managed to register with the Chamber of Commerce, to obtain a stamp from the Immigration and Naturatlisation Service in her passport, to sort out a tenancy agreement, to open a bank account and even to find herself a room in the Red Light District. How is that possible? You tell me...”

Breaking the wall of silence
Ms Perquin believes the underlying problem is that the organisations fail to work together and are more worried about their own budget than helping the women. She advocates a central coordinator to deal with all matters concerning prostitution. That way forced prostitution and human trafficking can be exposed more quickly.

In addition, there should be a drop-in centre for the women, where they can have a cup of coffee, buy condoms, and get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. But it should also be a place where they can get real help if they ask for it. That way, in Ms Perquin’s words, “the wall of involuntary silence among prostitutes, built on fear and distrust, can be brought down.”

(dd/nc)
 

Discussion

johanbond 16 August 2014 - 9:17am

In every city and states you can find the casinos and the famous games that are played by the people. Russians likes to play the game roulette that is famous due to the easy process as well as you can get a good income from this. Mostly the red light district is famous for this game and they are really enjoying it in a different way. If you are interested in these games then go through Roulette Table Rental New York City and get the details.

Mark van der Beer 2 May 2014 - 11:01am / The Netherlands

Isn't this the Patricia Perquin who was the most important adviser on the Project 1012 from the City of Amsterdam, to close down large parts of the Red Light District? And the same woman/man who was later uncovered to be a fake!

Patricia Perquin never worked in the Red Light District, a Dutch newspaper already uncovered this years ago. She's a notorious liar, also says her former boss, Peter R. de Vries, a famous Dutch crime reporter. De Vries claims this women is a liar and a cheat, a complete fraud.
And funny enough, at the same time ms. Perquin claimed to be working in the Red Light District she owned a publishing company in Anterwerpen (Belgium), and before that she worked for several gossip tabloids.
How can one be running a company in Belgium, and simutaniosly be working in the Amsterdam Red Light District? Especially since there are no reviews by customers to be found that match any descriptions about her?
No reviews, running a company at the same time in a different country, and having a former boss claiming she's a fraud? I think there's enough evidence to say that this woman is a liar and a fraud, and only makes these claims to sell her own book.

Cati Fernandez 5 August 2013 - 3:50am

There are misunderstandings about prostitutes. I’m sure trafficking does happen, but it appears to be minor. If you go to places where prostitution is legal, it is hard to find prostitutes against their will.

Monica Gomez 25 November 2012 - 11:44pm

There is a misunderstanding about prostitution. I’m sure trafficking does happen, but it appears to be minor. If you go to places where prostitution is legal like in Tijuana, it is hard to find prostitutes against their will. Tijuana prostitutes are checked on a routine basis. 

Marcus Segretto 9 September 2012 - 9:12pm / UK

Interesting. I can believe that the non-government organisations absorb government grants and deliver very little. That is the way of NGOs.

Once Patricia was almost strangled by one of her regular clients. That cannot be taken lightly.

A lot of misery could be avoided if the authorities, welfare organisations and police tackled the root of the problem. Unfortunately, she doesn't say what the root of the problem is.

Imagine you are an 18-year-old Hungarian girl. You end up in the Red Light District and don’t even know which country you are in....... 16 to 18 hours a day.

This observation panders to the popular view of prostitutes coerced. Observation (window counting) monthly (and familiarity with the occupants), over the last 5 years shows CONCLUSIVELY that 16-18 hour days do not happen. The point being made is "what if .. ." (fiction, made up fantasy).

I'm sorry that Patricia's time in the RLD was not wholly positive, but the picture painted is a gross distortion. The facts do not fit the narrative. The girls who work in the RLD are, for the most part,intelligent, level-headed, independent, free-spirited, self-motivated, highly paid, business women. Like most of us, some would rather be doing something else, but most will admit that the financial advantages (considerably) out weight the disadvantages.

For interviews with the the girls in the red light district, consider theamsterdamdiaries.net.

Meanwhile, I have found radio N W to be a very interesting and informative source of information on the RLD, and look forward to future articles.

SlowWalker 18 April 2012 - 12:08am / NL

Quote from Ms Perquin: "You cannot imagine what it's like to be a prostitute"

That's absolutely true. The vast majority of women cannot imagine themselves performing sexual acts for money. Therefore, it is assumed that women who do work in the sex industry must be forced.

Based on that train of thought it is assumed by the general public that 70 to 90 percent of the prostitutes in the Amsterdam RLD are forced and/or victim of human trafficking.

As a regular visitor of the Dutch RLD's I have doubts about roughly 1 to 2 percent of the working women. Reliable statistics on human trafficking in The Netherlands show a number of the same magnitude.

The high percentages (70% to 90%) of human trafficking victims were never proven, not even close. They are only based on the perception of the general public, and are used by moralists to outlaw prostitution in what once was one of the most liberal countries on the planet.

Cuchulainn 17 April 2012 - 2:16pm / NL

This subject has been discussed at lenth on the hookers.nl forum, by both regular male clients & working girls who are forum members ( in dutch, http://www.hookers.nl/showthread.php?t=250917 ), the general conclusion is that, due to several inconsistancies & inaccuracies in the story, it is a fake & possibly a media project run over a number of years with the intention of :- 1. creating a successful & profitable book-film series pandering to popular prejudices about prostitution. 2. Helping to further the aims & agenda of those who are morally opposed to prostitution such as the current mayor of Amsterdam, Asscher, & of course the De Mol media orginisation likes to keep on the good side of the Amsterdam administration

Marco Marboni 30 March 2012 - 5:33pm / UK

I have been to RLD's of Amsterdam & The Hague several times and I always respect and treat the women as lovers. I am a single truck driver and like all men, I need to have some "me time". As a matter of fact, I always leave the ladies room in great spirit, satisfied and I think I can say that they feel the same way too. If the service exceeds my expectations, I always leave an extra "tip". That, in my opinion is how it should be for everyone visiting the RLD.

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