Former prostitute/madam now helping women exit the ‘sick’ sex trade
December 22, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The sex industry is “a sick world, full of broken dreams and empty promises, battered, shattered, sexually abused women, men and children,” says Tania Fiolleau, the author of Souled Out!, a book exposing the horrors facing women caught up in the sex trade.
For Fiolleau this fight is deeply personal. She was once a prostitute herself - in fact, a madam who employed about 500 women.
She has now dedicated her life to fighting the sex trade. This year she launched a website called SavetheWomen.ca, aimed at raising awareness and helping women exit the industry. And this fall, she became a major voice in the media after the Ontario Superior Court overturned Canada’s prostitution laws.
“I just feel it’s so important that I tell the truth about what this is, because if we legalize prostitution in Canada right now it’s going to be a disaster,” Fiolleau told LifeSiteNews.
A mother of two boys, she got into the sex industry to fund an expensive custody battle against her abusive husband. Responding to a nondescript classified ad, she got lured in by the need for quick cash.
The first night she took home $1,700, but she relates in her book that she actually lost much more. “When I went home, I could scrub my body as much as I wanted, I could not wash away the dirt that had already surrounded my heart and soul,” she writes. “Nothing could erase the images from my mind. They are carved in my memory forever.”
Nevertheless, she stayed in the industry and on top of paying her legal fees was able to purchase a house, as well as cars, jewelry, clothes, shoes, or whatever she wanted. Fiolleau remained focused enough to stay off drugs, which make most women financially dependent on the industry.
The breaking point came after the judge took what seemed like “nine months of hell” to decide her custody case, she told LifeSiteNews. “If I was to lose custody of my kids, that meant I fought in the courts for four and a half years, I dragged myself through the mud, I sold my soul to the devil, I spent four hundred grand for nothing, and slept with all these men for free,” she explained. “So I was broken, and I got down on my knees.”
“God spoke to me and He said, ‘I never left you, you left me. But if you surrender your all, I’m here,’” said Fiolleau. “So I got on my knees and I just said, ‘Fine. I lay it all at the Cross. Just help me. I’m here at your mercy.’”
Twelve hours later, she learned that the judge had granted her custody.
She had assured the judge that she would get out of the industry as soon as she won the case. But it was not quite so easy. “You get addicted to the money. You become a product of your own environment,” she explained.
After successfully exiting the industry in 2002, she slipped back in briefly in 2006. “I was weak, I was so weak, and I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she says. “Satan threw temptation at me. ... Older clients wanted to see me again, and I did slip back into it ... for a brief, brief time.”
Last winter, around the time of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a man offered her $1 million to help start a brothel. “I knew that was Satan trying to tempt me, and I just said no,” she said.
After exiting the industry, Fiolleau purchased a tanning salon that was about to close and turned it into a very successful enterprise. But many of her former prostitutes, still in the industry in some cases after ten years, came to the salon as clients. She says she was struck by a strong conviction to do whatever she could to help them.
She recounts hearing God say: “Tania, there’s no better person than you because you were a perpetrator, you were a Madam, and you have to come forward.”
“I walked away from the business. ... I closed the doors and I didn’t even sell it,” she says. “I just walked away.”
She started writing her book, and with no income, her home went into foreclosure. She began living in hotels, then at a camp site, and six months ago she was living in her car and typing every day at Starbucks.
She described one rainy night in the car when she began crying as her son sat there doing his homework. “I’m so sorry I put you in this situation. What kind of a mother am I? ... I didn’t know it would get this bad,” she told him.
“My son just looked at me and he smiled,” she explained. “He said, ‘Mom, I’m very happy where I’m at right now. ... I’d rather know that my mom’s doing this than to know my mom’s doing that.’”
Fiolleau’s book, Souled Out!, was published in October and a second edition will be released this week.
She expressed amazement that God had prepared her to launch her campaign against prostitution just as the prostitution laws were overturned by Ontario Superior Court justice Susan Himel this fall.
“If we legalize prostitution ... we’re going to foster the growth of the industry by far,” she said. “Why are we encouraging our women to go and be prostitutes in brothels? We should be empowering them to be women of virtues, women of education.”
Fiolleau said we need to target johns, recruiters, and pimps. “If we can cut off the demand, we can cut off the supply,” she said. “We’ll never get rid of it, but we will be able to eliminate it as much as possible.”
But she argues that the victimization of women in the sex industry is also propped up by people who indulge in pornography, and even degrading forms of music. “You are part of it too, for there must be enablers to create victims,” she writes on her website. “Is it all really worth the ‘thrill’ of self gratification that lasts only a couple minutes? You are destroying lives of countless women while you do it - feeding the monster the sex industry has become.”
Fiolleau also criticizes the phenomenon of pimp and prostitute costumes for Halloween and t-shirts with slogans like ‘Porn Star’. “You’re glamorizing it instead of actually acknowledging the pain that these women endure, because they do hide behind a mask of beauty and a fabricated smile,” she told LifeSiteNews. “That’s a character that they build as a coping mechanism.”
Now living temporarily in government-subsidized housing, Fiolleau is a committed Christian and hopes to help as many women as she can. “Here I was from making tons of money, owning a business, owning my house, to literally living in poverty,” she said. “There’s no way I could have done it without the Lord.”
“God really put it on my heart. I can’t explain it. ... When God speaks to me, I listen.”
She is in the process of starting a charity that she hopes will become a “happiness, hope, healing, and wellness sanctuary” for women exiting the industry. She says she is “desperate” for donations towards this cause.
“If I can just prevent even one girl from going through even half the pain that I went through,” she said, “me coming forward and going through everything that I’m going through right now is worth it to me.”
Fiolleau’s book, Souled Out!, can be purchased at SavetheWomen.ca. Proceeds are used to support her cause.