Prostitution in Sweden
A review of Simon Haggstrom’s book, Shadow’s Law: The True Story of a Swedish Detective Inspector Fighting Prostitution(Bullet Point Publishing, 2016)
As head of the Stockholm Police Prostitution unit, Simon Haggstrom recounts heartbreaking stories of women whose lives meant nothing to the users and which often ended in sad and lonely deaths. Such is the world of prostitution. The author recounts real life stories of the women used in prostitution, the men who use them, and the ones who sell the women for sex. Also described is the way the police do their work, the way the courts respond and how those in the sex industry react to Police intervention.
The book is not a happy read, however, it begins with a good news story. Bella was forced into a life of prostitution by her boyfriend Vlad after suffering sexual abuse as a child. After nine years of mental and physical abuse (p. 20) Bella finally broke away and is now free from her previous life.
A grim story concerns Lovisa. When we meet Lovisa, she is a heroin addict and a single mum with a baby in a stroller, and she is on the street looking for clients (p. 25). The author then describes his relationship with Lovisa over the years as he and his police partner tried to protect her from danger. Sadly, Lovisa died of an overdose in a dirty public toilet (p. 42).
What about women who choose prostitution? Haggstrom identifies three women and then states that “we scarcely ever meet” these types of women (p. 69).
What causes women to enter into this world? The author offers four explanations.
The first is poverty, and “in many cases the women are single mothers with small children to provide for back home” (p. 70).
The second is mental illness and the author notes that many are battling long-term “complex psychiatric problems, diagnosed with ADHD, autistic spectrum disorder, personality disorders or schizophrenia” (p. 71).
The third is sexual abuse. “A great majority have been sexually abused recently or during their childhood, or in their teens” without the necessary support and aid. (p. 71).
The fourth is drug abuse and addiction. Noting that the most common drug is now cocaine, Haggstrom reports that this drug enables prostitutes to make themselves “indestructible when meeting a sex buyer” (p. 72).
The author acknowledges that “these four categories of people are easy targets for clever pimps and cynical human traffickers using their misfortune to their own advantage” (p. 72).
Pro-prostitution lobbyists try to separate prostitution and trafficking, an assertion that Haggstrom disputes. He notes “we are confident that roughly 90 percent of the foreign women we encounter are victims of trafficking or organised prostitution” (p. 73).
Haggstrom adds, “One of the biggest mistakes people make when talking about prostitution is that they do not see how everything is connected. They do not understand that sex buyers and human traffickers feed off each other. The sex buyers depend on the human traffickers to provide a fresh supply, but the human traffickers are completely dependent on the sex buyers using other people’s misfortune in order to make their money” (p. 301).
Chief Superintendent Helmut Sporer concurs, “it is very important to keep in mind that prostitution and human trafficking are closely connected. There is no such thing as ‘clean’ and ‘good’ prostitution that exists separately from the horrible realities of human trafficking and pimping” (p. 91).
Quoting research conducted by Melissa Farley, Haggstrom noted that when interviewed, 854 prostitutes from nine different countries, revealed that “71 percent were physically assaulted in prostitution; 63 percent were raped; 75 percent had been homeless at some point in their lives; 68 percent met the criteria for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder); and 89 percent wanted to escape prostitution, but did not have other options for survival” (p. 129 – Farley’s research is available at www.prostitutionresearch.com ).
What about the argument that prostitution will disappear and go underground if it is criminalised. Haggstrom’s reply is simple. It is not possible for prostitution to go underground. Just like with any other business, the buyer and the seller need to be in contact with each other and this preferably through adverts …”. (p. 242).
I recommend this book to all who wish to see women protected from this diabolical trade.
Farley, Melissa. (2017). Book Review: Shadow’s law: The true story of a Swedish detective fighting prostitution.
Dignity: A Journal of Sexual Exploitation and Violence. Vol. 2, Issue 2, Article 5. – available at www.digitalcommons.uri.edu/dignity/vol2/iss2/5