Australia

I came back to God while running a brothel

For Nola Michailovic, running a brothel seemed like the logical conclusion of a lifetime of sexual abuse that began when, as a small child, she was targeted by paedophiles.

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Nola intends to write a book about her dramatic life story, and her steady decline from runway model to nude photography, to pornography and eventually prostitution.

Modelling is “a slippery slope for a lot of young girls and for me, unfortunately, that’s where it began – behind the camera,” she tells Eternity.

“It started with the photographers, and we all know that back in the day it was usually nude photography; it would start there and then it would start to porn and it’s a slippery slope. I started out stripping in the beginning, so for me it was a steady decline.”

“I found myself having to sell my body in order to put food on the table.” – Nola Michailovic

Nola says she turned to sex work after becoming a single mother while still a child, as a desperate way of getting enough money to support her children, who had special needs.

“My second son, he was born 15 weeks premature, so he was born the size of my hand, and he had a lot of health problems for the first 20 years of his life, so I found myself having to sell my body in order to put food on the table, and that’s due to domestic violence, family breakdown, the list goes on.

“I’ve been [stranded] in a park with my kids, I’ve been put out on the highway, I’ve been left in the rain with my children, I’ve been locked out of my own home, you know, so it comes down to what are you prepared to do? I can’t say I did it because it was my dream job but because it was a matter of survival. It was live or die.”

“I was terrified about them finding out about what my history was.” – Nola Michailovic

Nola desperately regrets her involvement in pornography because it is “out there” forever and her sons could find the footage.

“Oh my gosh, don’t do it, just don’t do it, because in ten, 15, 20 years’ time you might want that executive job,” she says.

“I wanted to go into the police force, into the prostitution taskforce; however, I was terrified about them finding out about what my history was.

“So there were dreams that I didn’t follow because I was fearful of things coming out … I just wish I had’ve had someone to shake me and go, like, ‘wake up to yourself, you’re worth more than that,’ because all it does it is devalues women, it dehumanises people and it causes massive problems, as we know.”

“My journey was profoundly lonely and I guess that’s why I wanted to be that person for those women.” – Nola Michailovic

Nola took on the management of a brothel in Toowoomba, near Brisbane, two years ago, after losing her then partner to suicide.

“My journey was profoundly lonely and I guess that’s why I wanted to be that person for those women. I think it’s so important that women support each other,” she explains.

“As I was getting older it was something that I wanted to be a support to the girls that I was working with – because it is legal, [but] they don’t have the same rights as a lay person, let’s say, that comes for medical treatment, being able to get a bank loan, basic things like that.

“So I progressed from being a sex worker to being the madam, so I have no shame attached to what I’ve done because I always came from a very pure place in my heart about the intentions behind what I was doing.”

“That was like the church ladies bringing the hookers half-time snacks.” – Nola Michailovic

While always feeling close to God from childhood, Nola says for a long time she was disappointed in God.

Nola’s journey back to the joy of loving and being loved by God began when a group of Christian women who reach out to those who feel trapped in the sex industry began visiting the brothel.

“That was weird, that was like the church ladies bringing the hookers half-time snacks and we would laugh hysterically about it,” she says about the women from City Women Toowoomba’s Rahab ministry.

“It’s like ‘Lord, have mercy, like what are these people doing?’ But they would show up week in, week out, and they just kind of kept showing up and we developed this kind of friendship. It was really weird – it was almost like you’ve got the lion and the mouse, you know – you’ve got the prostitute and the virgin [and] they’re friends – how does that even happen?”

“The Rahab crew have done a really amazing job of breaking down the barriers.” – Nola Michailovic

Then last Christmas, the women dropped off a Bible at the brothel.

“[It was] a pink Bible, it was really cool, and the girls started walking around with it and reading it and it became just like a common coffee table book, you know?

“So the Rahab crew have done a really amazing job of breaking down the barriers between, I guess, the Christian-based community and the people that work in the sex industry – and it’s proof that we can be friends.”

After Nola started holding exit programmes to help women who wanted to leave the sex industry, she was bullied into resigning from the brothel. She and her partner were considering buying a brothel when she was offered work at a Christian radio station. She now hosts the breakfast show each day and absolutely loves it. This year, she is hosting a special ‘Fighting for our Daughters’ segment on Friday mornings with anti-porn campaigner Letitia Shelton, focusing on educating about the harms of pornography.

“It’s people like me that can stand up and go ‘this has to stop because they’re our future.’” – Nola Michailovic

“I think I’ve been given a voice for those that don’t have a voice, and I’m quite happy to stand up and educate people about what’s really going on in our society,” she says.

“We can pretend sex trafficking is not happening, we can pretend there’s not children being bought and sold, that there’s no boys and girls being abused right now as we speak. We’d be foolish to put our eyes down to our iPads and iPhones and pretend that it’s not because it’s alive and well – and it’s people like me that can stand up and go ‘this has to stop because they’re our future.’

“And I think that’s the reason God’s put me on the radio is because it might be just one little thing that I say that saves a person, and if I can save one life, my job is done.”

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Pray for Nola and her ‘Fighting for our Daughters’ programme as it aims to educate about the harms of pornography.

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