Hull is the UK’s only city to have banned sex workers from its red light district, effectively making prostitution illegal. The council says the policy is working, but Millie, who once worked on the streets herself, says it increases the danger for the women involved.
Sex work “slithered” into Millie’s life when she was in her twenties. “It happens quite slowly at first and then all of a sudden you’re in this mad cyclone and you can’t find your feet, you get lost,” she says.
The cocky bravado of the women in Hull’s red light district made it seem like an easy way of funding her drug addiction. But now, with more than five years on the streets behind her, she knows all that banter is just body armour against the violence and vileness that comes with the job.
“Oh, you must love sex,” punters would say with a smirk. “No. I love heroin,” was Millie’s sharp retort. “There is no love of sex, working on the streets – it’s always a last resort.”
Millie’s drug addiction began as a teenager, when she would steal her mum’s sleeping pills and Valium. When her mum’s mental illness was at its height, she would whisper menacing things through Millie’s bedroom door at night: “There’s evil inside you, I can see it. You are a demon, spawned from demon seed.” The pills helped to block it all out. From there she graduated to ecstasy, opioids – and eventually, heroin.
“Then you get trapped in addiction because you end up needing the drugs to get through it, to block out the things you’ve had to do,” says Millie.
She remembers how women would steel themselves for a night on Hessle Road – Hull’s red light district – telling themselves that they wouldn’t do anything for less than £60. But their resolve would weaken as soon as withdrawal symptoms set in. “When you’re rattling you’ll get in that car for less than £20 – you’d do it for a fiver,…