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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 March, 2004, 14:49 GMT
From nun to prostitute
Ms van Raay went from nun to teacher to prostitute
An Australian woman who became nun at the age of 18 but went on to spend 20 years working as prostitute has released a book on her life - under the provocative title God's Call Girl.

Carla van Raay, who was born in Holland in 1938 but moved to Australia as a child, joined a Melbourne convent as a way of escaping a traumatic childhood. But after a number of conflicts with other nuns, she left and briefly became a teacher before embarking on a long-term life offering sex for money.

Ms van Raay told BBC World Service's Everywoman programme she had had "tremendous fun" at first, but ended up finding the profession degrading and humiliating.

"I would not recommend it to anyone," she said.

"The way I started off was with very high ideals and a great deal of naivety, and I didn't end up that way.

"I felt degraded in the end, and all the guilt that was inside me came to the surface and I felt guilty and shameful. I was in a bad way."

'The Devil was my only friend'

Now 65, Ms van Raay has been celibate for 12 years.

She said that many of the reasons behind her actions in her life related to the abuse she suffered as a child.

Vatican directives on free speech caused friction in Ms van Raay's convent
"When I came to Australia I thought I was in paradise - it was such a bright, sunny country," she explained.

"It was pretty grim in Holland... I was abused as a child. But because I adjusted when I was little, because children do, and I loved my father. But when he wanted to silence me, at the age of 6, he did something very drastic.

"He told me not to go to confession, because in confession I might tell the priest what he was up to with me, and he didn't want anyone to know."

She added that her interpretation of her father's action was that she was "the baddest girl in the world" and that God had abandoned her.

"The Devil was my only friend," she said.

"I was extremely desolate after that."

As a result of the experience, Ms van Raay said she joined the convent, stating that she had become withdrawn and wanted to pull away from life.

But also said she felt a strong vocational feeling that "it was the right thing to become a nun."

"But the fact of the matter also was that I wasn't able to face life. I didn't know what relationships were all about. I didn't know anything about the world."


In total, Ms van Raay stayed 12 years in the convent. She said that at first she was happy, but the laws became stricter.

The big change, however, was when the Vatican passed laws allowing nuns greater freedom to speak their minds.

It was only on account of everything I suffered that I woke up to myself
Carla van Raay
While Ms van Raay was in favour of these changes, other sisters were not. She said the friction created by this eventually caused her to leave.

Shortly afterwards she began work as a teacher in Melbourne's biggest school. After six months she had "scotched" religion. She stayed in the school another year, before getting married - but it did not last.

"When I got married, I married a man who was a very good man, and one whom I tried to love," she said.

"But because I'd had no experience of a boyfriend before, and no experience of life in general, it was inevitable that I would have a tempestuous affair with a 19-year-old.

"That broke up the marriage, and I was alone with a child."

She admitted this was "not a good excuse" for becoming a prostitute.

But she said that there was "sexual confusion" inside her that made her think of doing so, "that made me want to explore my sexuality in this way."

No regrets

The trigger for her taking up prostitution, she said, was when she saw migrant women making raincoats in a factory.

Ms van Raay came to Melbourne in 1950
"I thought to myself, 'these women are prostituting themselves for a few dollars an hour'," she said.

"As soon as the word came into my mind, I thought, well, I can prostitute myself as well, but I'll make good money and I'll have fun at the same time."

Ms van Raay is now working on a second book, entitled In Praise Of Prostitution.

She said that she had now "exonerated" her father, and that she was now the happiest she had ever been.

"When I finally faced everything inside me and realised I was none of these dreadful things I had been feeling about myself, I have been at peace and enjoyed myself very much," she said.

"Now I don't have any regrets. I'm grateful for my life - because it was only on account of everything I suffered that I woke up to myself."

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