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DW is unable to verify the woman's story independently. She asked that they be withheld, along with her real name. And that was it. That day was also the last in the endless cycle of long nights and short days, the forced smiles and faked cheerfulness. She had opted for sex work "because I wanted a better life for my children. An old, slightly grainy picture on her cell phone shows a woman with peroxide blond hair, high heels and gaudy underwear, posing for the camera in a brightly illuminated hallway.
Julia struggled to explain why she kept the photos. Perched on a couch, her makeup discreet, her plain plaid shirt buttoned up, she spoke eloquently and calmly about her time as a sex worker and her decision to leave the profession.
She told DW about the panic attacks that started creeping up on her almost every day a few months ago. Panic attacks, depression and insomnia are usual symptoms of the trade, according to Sabine Constabel. Constabel is convinced that sex work is nothing else than rape. It's a word she keeps on repeating. They're nothing more than dirt. Women and men who voluntarily enter the trade? Nothing but a myth, propaganda propagated by lobbying groups propped up by brothel owners, she told DW.
It's a distinction that German lawmakers also make. Sex work was officially recognized as a profession back in In theory, women and men can now register as sex workers and pay into the social insurance system. So far, only a minority of sex workers do so.