ESSAY: Who Forces Our Daughters Into Prostitution?




Here's something you don't see every day: A tall, gray-haired man comes to the police's Inspectorate of Juvenile Affairs and says, "Please send my daughter to a prison camp." Dumbfounded, the inspectorate employees ask, "Why?" "She's beating me. And she's become a prostitute."


He was over 70, and his daughter, the late child of a second marriage, was 16. "She's a victim of the times," he said. "Only harsh discipline will save her. Prison. Beating her father -- it's sacrilege!"


He had come to the inspectorate a few times, so they introduced me to him. "Your journalist brethren," Konstantin Semyonovich said, "are corrupting our youth. They show sex and violence on television. And fights in the Duma. They shouldn't do that."


Then I saw his daughter Katya: an impressive walk, sensitive lips, a knowing look, a tender smile. Was she only 16?


By that time, she already had a file: stopped while exiting a store with stolen shampoo, detained with "ladies of the evening" on Tverskaya.


Of her father, Katya said, "What kind of father is he? He's a prison supervisor."


Her father, a former singer, had wanted her to develop her musical talent. But the daily practicing made her dislike the piano. Then her father bought her a cello. Katya dragged the heavy instrument to school, hating it. Once she unfastened the case and scraped the cello against a light pole. At home she said she had been crossing the street and was almost hit by a car, so she dropped the cello. "So why is nothing wrong with the case?" her father asked.


From that moment, she learned to lie. But her father usually found her out. He beat her, shouting, "Who do you want to be? A cleaning lady? A sales clerk? You'll eventually becomea prostitute!" Katya's mother, Nina Ivanovna, didn't dare object: Her husband was a complete tyrant at home.


Katya didn't object either. But the more her father chided show business and pop music, the more she was drawn away from home. To spite her father, she went to discos and got to know boys whose flippant attitude toward life seemed the only way to survive. When her father found out about the discos, he nearly went mad: "That's the music of barbarians! Only the rabble meets at discos!"


Katya couldn't stand it. "They're just a different kind of people. It doesn't mean they're bad."


"They're primitive!" he said.


"And you think you're civilized," his daughter retorted. Her father hit her across the mouth. "That's for having an attitude."


Looking at her swollen lips in the mirror, Katya began to hate her father for his intolerance of everything he didn't understand. And, hating her father, Katya refused to submit to his power, submitting instead to the power of her own allusions.


Her circle of friends widened to include young businessmen, who invited her and her friend Lena to restaurants. She was often brought home after midnight. Once, when her father saw Katya with a bouquet of roses, he shouted, "You'll soon realize what kind of animal gave you those flowers!"


She soon did realize it. One night, there were twice the number of men normally at the table. Those who had joined the group paid their compliments to Katya. The group later went to an apartment to watch an erotic film. There were toasts -- "To our beautiful ladies!" -- after one of which Katya discovered that her former friends and Lena were no longer in the apartment. Katya was then thrown onto the couch and raped savagely. Later she was taken away in a Mercedes and shoved into the elevator of her building with the warning, "If you narc, you won't survive."


She locked herself in the bathroom so her parents wouldn't see her. Her father pounded on the door: "I warned you!"


From then on, Katya's estrangement from her parents was open. She didn't immediately tell her mother that she had quit school. She didn't explain where she got her money or where she spent so many late nights.


Katya was learning about street life. She sold lacquer boxes on the Arbat until she fell in debt to her employers for a large sum. She agreed to a proposal to "have dinner," naming as her price almost the entire sum of her debt. And she got it.


Just one more invitation, and she'd be able to pay off her debt. But the next day a woman with red lips approached her, led her aside and kneed her in the groin: "You've got to pay for your spot!" That evening, before Katya got into the car with the man who had invited her to dinner, Katya asked for an "advance." She immediately gave it to Red Lips.


Red Lips, it turns out, ran a group of "ladies of the evening," 16- to 18-year-old girls, some from the provinces, a few from Moscow. When Katya joined the group, she learned that Red Lips rented an apartment for the girls from the provinces and paid for security and transport. It was very convenient, especially in winter. The girls warmed up in the cars, parked somewhere in a courtyard. Out on Tverskaya, Red Lips enticed clients. They drove into the courtyard and turned on their lights. The girls jumped out of the other cars, lined up in the light and opened their fur coats. The clients took a look and counted out their money to Red Lips: "Give me the second one from the left."


When the members of the Inspectorate for Juvenile Affairs told me these details, I asked from which families these young sirens were recruited. They usually come from broken homes, they said, ones without fathers. Or in homes with a father who drinks. As a rule, such families are not well off, even poor. But it's not just a matter of poverty. Unhappy families can engender in girls an inferiority complex, which they will try to expunge in any way they can.


Surprised that his daughter had such expensive clothing, Konstantin Semyonovich once joked malevolently, "Are you already a prostitute?!" Katya became hysterical. "You made me do it!" she shouted. "It happened as you said it would." Shocked by this acknowledgement, he hit her again on the mouth.


Katya ran to the mirror on the wall and looked at her swelling lips. She lost control and ripped the mirror from the wall and hit her father with it. He ran away from her onto the stairway, but she ran after him and beat him again with the mirror. He tried to get the neighbors to call the police. The neighbors separated the two, but they didn't call the police. So Konstantin Semyonovich went to the police himself.


When I talked to him at the police station, he said, "I did everything for her education, but it turns out I was powerless against the depraved influence of today's society."


He didn't understand that he himself had programmed his daughter to choose the life he had warned her away from. He can't, won't blame himself. Because it's easier for him to find a reason for his family catastrophe outside himself.


Igor Gamayunov is a staff writer for Literaturnaya Gazeta. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.