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‘I thought lap dancing was empowering


Sammy Woodhouse became a victim in the Rotherham sex-grooming scandal aged 14 and began working in lap dancing clubs four years later.

The campaigner wants to see the clubs shut down and is urging councils to investigate the industry and see what is happening for themselves.

She tells Sky News it is “horrendous” how women working in the clubs are treated and claims many venues ignore criminality like prostitution, trafficking and drug-taking

I started when I was about 18, I got into the industry while working as a model – I kind of fell into it. I wasn’t pressured, I wasn’t forced into it and it was entirely my choice.

However, I was abused as a child and I left school with no qualifications, very low self-esteem, not much self-respect, and I kind of didn’t see anything wrong with it at the time.

The 'Sammy's Law' campaign was launched by Sammy Woodhouse, who was herself subjected to years of mental and sexual abuse as a teenager
Image:
Sammy Woodhouse says some girls drink and take drugs to be able to do the job.

I thought “this is my choice, my body, I can do what I want with it”. I felt like I was in control of it and I felt like it was empowerment and when I look back now, I realise that’s absolute nonsense.

You take your clothes off and give a man an erection – that’s not empowerment, that’s not something little girls grow up and aspire to want to do. But I did it and it paid my bills.

There were times when I made a lot of money, there were times when I didn’t earn anything. The only people that win are the clubs.

I did it for about nine years and what I noticed was a hell of a lot of the women that were dancers had been through something traumatic in their lives, they were abused as a child or had been through domestic violence and they were in that industry for reasons like my own – control, empowerment or just wanted to earn some easy money.

Within the industry there’s trafficking, prostitution, money laundering, fraud, drug and alcohol abuse and it’s an industry that not many people know or understand.

At the time, if you had said to me the girls were being exploited – I would not have had any idea what exploitation was. A lot of things that were exploitative, I would not have realised were happening.



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It’s only now when I look back and I’m actually out of the industry that I feel very different and it’s something that needs to be looked at so I’m calling on council officials to actually go in and find out for themselves how these clubs are actually being run.

When they are going in they’re finding these clubs are not safe at all, there is a lot of criminal activity going on and it’s something that needs to be shut down once and for all.

I’ve lost count how many times myself and other people were sexually assaulted – that happens on a nightly basis. What you’re told is “you’re a lap dancer you’ve got to expect this”. No one should ever be expected to be touched, groped or assaulted.

I know girls that have been drugged and raped.

It’s almost as if the clubs are grooming the girls to think that the people who work in these clubs are like a tight family network and that they care about the girls, that they’re one big happy family.

And it makes it really difficult for people to go against that and the moment they do, they’re fired, they’re shut down. Word will get round that they’re a bad person to take on.

I myself found it very difficult to take my clothes off and I did that with drink and I remember one night I tried it without drink and I sat in a corner and I couldn’t speak to anyone. My boss walked over and slammed a bottle of wine on the table and he went “drink that and earn me some money”.

Some girls are drinking and taking drugs every night just to be able to do the job.

It turned me against men, I viewed men as very weak and pathetic and I thought “you’re giving me all your money”. I could take an entire yearly earnings within an hour. I’m talking about very powerful people who go into strip clubs.

When you have that control it makes you feel good but now I realise that’s not empowerment, that’s manipulation.

At the time, girls might be getting a lot of compliments, it might make them feel great, they’re earning money but that’s very short-lived. The impact long-term on your mental health and self-esteem is really very damaging.

Pimps are sending girls into the clubs to get the customers’ numbers to gain punters – it’s almost encouraging things.

The simple fact is, the clubs don’t want to raise the issues, the managers don’t want to raise the issues and neither do the girls, because guess what? They’re making money.

Essentially, they’re selling women – we’re in 2018 and people think it’s alright to go buy a woman for whatever sexual need it is?

Sammy Woodhouse

For the girls, how you get treated is horrendous. Some clubs are better than others but there is no way a club can control the amount of criminal activity that’s happening. The verbal abuse I have received for speaking out has been absolutely shocking.

Some of the clubs don’t even pay the girls what they’ve earned at the end of the night and they fine the lap dancers at every opportunity – for chewing gum or because the boss didn’t like their outfit. They do it because they know a lot of girls don’t declare they’re actually working so there’s nothing the girls can do – they have no rights.

Essentially, they’re selling women – we’re in 2018 and people think it’s alright to go buy a woman for whatever sexual need it is?

Do we want little girls growing up to be a lifeline for lonely old men? It’s exploitation.

My message to women thinking about working in the industry and those who already are is – don’t do it.

You’re worth so much more and I wish I had realised I was worth so much more and that I could go out there and do anything I put my mind to. There are plenty of ways you can earn good money without it being so damaging.

I just want people to aspire to be better.

I know you shouldn’t have regrets but would I do it all over again? No, I would not.



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