THERE’S no two roles for a woman more different than the oldest professions; a nun and a prostitute.
Carla van Raay has done both and attributes each to her journey of healing from abuse and discovering self love.
The 79-year-old was sexually abused by her father as a child and almost died at his hands when he tried to stop her from telling anyone.
Ms van Raay, who was born in The Netherlands, endured years of abuse that led her to believe she was “sinful, bad and dirty”.
“The abuse amounted to loneliness because even though I had brothers and sisters I didn’t connect with them or my playmates,” she said.
“I would separate myself because I wasn’t worthy of being loved.
“I believed I was this awful, dirty, terrible child.”
Ms van Raay moved to Australia with her family in the ‘50s before she found escape from the abuse by joining a convent in Melbourne.
She sought refuge in vowing to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience where she hoped to feel a sense of belonging.
“At the age of 18 I chose to go in to a convent and live with a group of nuns but we weren’t allowed to talk to each other or form friendships, and as soon as you became friends with someone you were sent away,” the mother-of-two said.
“We had our hair shaved off and all our feminine parts were obliterated, we were brides of Christ but not females.”
Ms van Raay divorced herself from the Catholic Church and left when she was 31 before realising she didn’t know how to identify with her femininity.
“I didn’t grow up to be an adult at that time, I was just a rebellious teenager,” she said.
“My decision to become a prostitute was part of that but it was also because I really wanted to explore my sexuality which had been suppressed for so long.”
Before becoming a sex worker, Ms van Raay was a teacher at one of the biggest schools in Melbourne and married a man she tried to love.
But she couldn’t, and ended up having a love affair with a 19-year-old man that broke up the marriage and left her as a single mother.
Ms van Raay said her decision to become a prostitute stemmed from the desire to feel what sex could be but admitted that it came from a darker place where she felt as though she wasn’t worthy of love.
“If you really love yourself you don’t become a prostitute, you find other ways of having a wonderful life, although I know that it is necessary in our society and that prostitutes are doing a good job,” she said.
“I applaud the girls who believe in themselves and are doing a good job as a sex worker, earning their money that way and having their boundaries intact.”
The grandmother, who stopped working in the sex industry at 52 years old, said it was her time as a callgirl and having passionate relationships, and having children, that brought her into her feminine self.
But it wasn’t until writing her best selling novel God’s Callgirl that she discovered her need for self love and to heal the wounds of being abused.
It’s with this that Ms van Raay is now dedicated to help heal others who have been emotionally, physically and sexually abused, championing movements like Me Too.
“Even though there is a lot to have come out about abuse recently with people standing up for themselves and speaking out, they’re still not often healed,” she said.
“There is a movement for women to appreciate who they are and realise they can do things they thought they couldn’t.
“Women are very powerful and that’s why they’re being suppressed but when women are supporting women, nothing can stop them.”
Ms van Raay has also written Healing from Abuse and is currently writing a guide to journaling novel to help victims of abuse heal.