I am pleased to say that after our five a.m panic attack to get going today, we left Bucharest for Bulgaria and 6.5 hrs and a hammered set of shock absorbers later – we crossed into Greece close to the Turkish border. Finally after 11 hrs we arrived with the project in Thessaloniki (you may have heard of it).
After 1 hour, a cup of tea and some pastry treats left by a kind neighbour, we knew the following:
Prostitution is legal here.
There are 53 licensed brothels in the city
This is not a tourist industry, it is to service local men
Local statistics suggest that 2 out of 3 men consider it normal to visit a brothel each month
Also that 1 in every 2 married men make up this number.
None of the girls here are local, they are shipped in from other neighbouring countries – TRAFFICKED
Project staff here via sources believe that there is a vibrant underground trade in children for sex.
We are told that it is deeply hidden and near impossible to break into this space to investigate. Wised up pimps will force people who want to abuse minors, to prove themselves by forcefully raping one of the newly trafficked girls in a breaking house.
Where do you go with that? How do you intervene into that?
I heard a phrase for the first time here, it was odd as I kind of knew what it meant but also felt entirely ignorant, perhaps even evasive. The phrase was ‘Breaking House’, and Thessaloniki has several of them according to rescued girls here. Remember the words Breaking House, or on another level I dare you to try and forget it if you can. Thesseloniki is a Destination country for victims but also a very active Transit country, a clearing house for young girls if you wish, and like all good clearing houses it prepares its produce for distribution. In this context – ‘Breaking Houses’ are where newly trafficked girls are brought, raped repeatedly and beaten so they are of little trouble by the time they begin their cycle of being sold and pimped abroad. Of all that we have seen and heard thus far, I believe that this is the most disturbing.
We are stopping an extra night so check back in with us.