"Hopefully it will be an eye opener:" Talita releases a must-read book with an important message

By Linnéa Pesonen

Talita founders Josephine Appelqvist and Anna Sander. Photo: Ola Axman

The Swedish non-profit organisation just released a book with real life stories that are bound to change your perspective on women who end up in prostitution. Below, we spotlight one of the eye-opening stories

It’s safe to say that there has been – and still is – a stigma around women who end up in prostitution. However, more often than not, it’s due to a lack of knowledge of why and how the women wound up in those horrible circumstances. Swedish non-profit organisation Talita is here to change that with their newly released book Sanna berättelser om vägen ut ur prostitution (True stories about the way out of prostitution), which dives into the authentic stories of 18 women who have gotten dragged into the sex trade and then escaped it – with the help of Talita.


“We started out meeting women in prostitution in the late ’90s – we’ve met so many women in the sex trade and so far we’ve never met a single one that said that ‘I chose this because I think it’s a job just the same as anything else’,” says Anna Sander, co-founder of Talita. “There’s always a reason why they end up in prostitution. And that is what we want to highlight, that all the women are unique and they have their unique stories.”

The book also illuminates Talita’s invaluable work in protecting and supporting women and children globally, offering insights into the complex mechanisms of the sex trade. By doing so, it aims to dispel prevalent misconceptions and provide a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by those involved. So far, the book is only available in Swedish; however, the founders are working on getting it translated into other languages as well.

“It’s hard to explain to people what we have come to know throughout all these years,” says co-founder Josephine Appelqvist. “But if they take time to really read these stories, we think that they will have a better understanding – hopefully it’ll be an eye opener.” “We have seen so many people get out of it and get a good life,” Sander chimes in. “So there’s hope.”

Talita's newly released book, 'Sanna berättelser om vägen ut ur prostitution'. Photo: Talita

One woman who found hope thanks to Talita is Tessie, who has penned her story for the book. Originally hailing from Montenegro, and while coming from “a simple family”, there was darkness in Tessie’s life already when she was a child. Although her mum was kind-hearted and loving, her dad, on the other hand, was very dominant, abusing Tessie’s mum both physically and mentally.

Upon returning from school on a summer's day in 1988, 10-year-old Tessie came home to a sight “forever etched in my memory.” The front door was wide open, and in the hallway, drenched in a pool of blood, lay the dead bodies of her mum, dad and grandmother. Utterly shocked, Tessie couldn’t comprehend what just had happened. “The image took away my childhood from me,” she writes.

It turned out that, in a flurry of jealousy, Tessie’s dad had first killed her mum and grandmother and, after that, himself. Tessie and her brother, who was suffering from severe diabetes, were left alone. As none of their relatives had the financial means to look after the kids, they were placed in an orphanage that did the bare minimum to care for them.

We’ve met so many women in the sex trade and so far we’ve never met a single one that said that ‘I chose this because I think it’s a job just the same as anything else'

Anna Sander, Talita co-founder

At 18, Tessie and her brother had to leave the orphanage with no one who’d look after them or guide them further in life. Tessie took every job she could get to support herself and her sick brother, from waitressing to retail. Nevertheless, the darkness from her past seemed to follow her: knowing that Tessie was an orphan with no protection, many of her employers tried to exploit her sexually.

Years passed, and Tessie’s hardships continued to mount. She thought she had finally found someone who could love and care for her and her brother, married him, and started a family, only to discover that the man was already married with children. Yet again, Tessie was on the move and got a job at a hotel, where she was introduced to a man called Boris, who, despite seeming friendly at first, dragged Tessie into the world of prostitution, filled with violence, abuse, drugs and threats if Tessie ever tried to escape. “The only thing that mattered to me was my little daughter and my brother,” she writes. “I had only one thing in mind: to earn money and support them.”

One day, a man offered Tessie to go “work” in Gothenburg. Desperate to escape Boris, she accepted and fled to Sweden. However, her situation did not improve. Although she was in a different country, Tessie was still in the dangerous, drug-fuelled sex trade. Fortunately, during a police raid on the apartment where Tessie and several other women were held, a female officer referred Tessie to Talita.

“When I came to Talita, I didn’t believe anything would change. I had already accepted who I was and resigned myself to the idea that I didn’t deserve a better life,” Tessie writes. But she was mistaken. Through completing Talita’s rehabilitation program, she finally began to confront the trauma she had endured her entire life, changing her self-image. “I caught a glimpse of my true self... I no longer view my past as a failure. Instead, I am proud to use it for something positive and to help others. I am much happier, calmer, and more at ease. The feeling of relief is priceless.”