Norwich book tackles views of prostitution
By Keith Morris
2010: A former Norwich
magistrate has written a book about her work for a city Christian charity which tackles issues surrounding street prostitution, in the hope of changing people’s attitudes towards those working in the sex industry.
Low Cost – High Price tells the story of Theresa Cumbers and the Magdalene Project and the heartache and successes of working with women trapped in the sex industry.
Former project director Theresa and her fellow-workers, have spent hours walking the streets, befriending those they have found there, loving them, caring for them, and offering them a way out to a new life, should they choose to take it. This book tracks those hours, and tells the stories of those who got out, and those who did not.
“I will never forget the night we went looking in the red light district of Norwich, searching for one of the women who we feared was missing. We found her rolling on the ground, in a very dark part of the area. We managed to get her to sit on a wall and she told us she had just sold herself for four cans of lager, and had already taken a cocktail of drugs and alcohol,” writes Theresa.
But that is not the end of the story: “Some days later we heard she had been admitted to hospital... this was to be the turning point in her life... She pulled through and, with determination, she now has a secure job in a high class restaurant.”
Theresa retired from the project in 2006, but still works with various organisations that are committed to helping women on and off the streets, including Talitha Koum of Ipswich; STEP (Standing Together Encouraging People) and Beyond the Streets, a national registered charity with around 50 affiliated groups.
Theresa, who is motivated by her strong Christian faith, said: “We all experience pain. It is inevitable. I have not always understood, but I have been privileged to listen, pray and cry tears of compassion with many of the women I have met. But I thank God that it does not end there. It is only the beginning of a story in which I was available to show mercy and overcome by His grace.”
Former victim of exploitation and now best-selling author, Maria Landon, said: “Theresa shows us a world of darkness, misery and despair, but interlocked throughout these pages is a love that fears no obstacles – a love that transcends all the desperation, filth and degradation that accompany a life of prostitution.
“Theresa shows us that we all have a role in these desperate people’s lives, and that role is, quite simply, to love each other as Jesus loved us. Even without the Christian ethos, I believe we all have a responsibility to help one another and support and care for each other.”
Theresa was born and raised in the East End of London. She was the youngest of nine children and experienced first hand the problems of poverty from a young age, never forgetting the love and support network found in her family and her East End community.
After graduating from college Theresa worked for an international publishing company and then in various public offices in both business and social care.
In 1992, the Magdalene Project was set up. Under the governance of the trustees, and Theresa's leadership, the group grew significantly, employing five staff members, supported by a team of 25 volunteers who facilitated street outreach, drop-in centre duties and basic skills educational training for those exiting prostitution in Norwich and Norfolk.
The book, which is also endorsed by former Home Secretary Charles Clarke and Baroness Howarth, is available from the Norwich Christian Resource Centre for £8.99.