Father sold daughter on streets on Norwich
By Sandie Shirley
2009: Maria Landon's childhood innocence was stolen forever when her father, who was a pimp, forced her to become a prostitute in the Norwich red light district when she was still a schoolgirl, aged 14.
The harrowing accounts of vice and violence, and her long fight for freedom, have been read by thousands worldwide and have made 43-year-old Maria a best-selling international author.
Now the single mother and grand-mother has closed the chapters of her past to be an inspiration for others thanks to faith in God.
Maria's dad lived in a world of thieves and street-walkers. Her mother, tiring of turning tricks for her husband, walked out, leaving the children in his chaotic, violent and sometimes cruel care.
By the age of nine, her father was abusing her and getting a prostitute friend to dress her up in stockings and make-up. By the time she was 14, he was selling her on the streets of the red light district in Norwich.
At 15, she ran away to King's Cross in London with an older lover who turned out to be just another pimp. Furious at losing a nice little earner, her father involved the police but both he and the other man were then jailed for living off Maria's immoral earnings. Only then could Maria escape her traumatic childhood and follow her dream of becoming a mother.
Determined to escape from her past, and be the best wife and mother she could possibly be, Maria threw herself into her marriage. But it is never that easy to escape from such a traumatic start in life.
Maria tells the story of her marriage into the gypsy community and the emotional demons that rise up from her childhood to haunt her as she becomes the victim of violence once more.
The book leads the reader through Maria’s own personal and inspiring journey out of a nervous breakdown and through two marriages. She then became a personal development teacher, helping many others to overcome their pasts, and was also to be a strong, empowered single mother of two boys.
A gifted communicator, life coach and aspiring degree student, Maria is now an advocate for justice and a pioneer for growth through adversity. Her mission has come with heartbreak, tears and years of counselling. "I have had to learn to love, respect and forgive myself. I have had to learn to love, respect and forgive others but most importantly I have found myself," she said.
"I have been on my healing journey for 16 years and I know the value of positive thinking but it was only when I got in touch with Jesus that I could finally leave the past behind. I cried and cried but they were healing tears. Now it's as though it happened to someone else as the barriers are coming down and I am learning to trust.
"I do not understand why some things happen but there are never any last chances. I am deeply passionate about personal development and growth, believing that with the right help and support people can overcome childhood trauma and its devastating effects," said Maria, who still lives in Norwich and worships at Proclaimers Church.
"I find great inspiration from people who have been through awful experiences and have managed to come out the other side and lead happy rewarding lives. If sharing my experiences and the steps I took to heal myself inspires anyone to help themselves out of the pain, then I have achieved what I set out to do. It is not an easy road, but it has been the most rewarding of my life."
Last Christmas Maria walked into a Norwich church after being invited by a friend.
“I wasn’t sure at first,” she said, “but as soon as I stepped inside, I just felt I belonged. The way people spoke about God, that he was part of their life, the most important part, deeply touched me. I knew I wanted Jesus in my life, so I asked him to come in, there and then.
“I didn’t need any prompting or persuasion. It just seemed the most natural thing for me. I felt like I had come home and was filled with an indescribable joy. At last, I had found a loving father who loved me for just being me. It didn’t matter what I had done or what had been done to me.
“For the first time in my life I felt clean. All the tricks, all the clients, all the disgusting thing which had been done to me were washed away. It was like I was a new person.”