Nun to Prostitute – Healing from child sexual abuse

Interview with author, Carla van Raay

Article by Joyce Bok  26/01/2016
About Carla:

Carla van Raay was born in Holland and her family migrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1950.  She entered the Catholic convent at the age of 18 years old.  When she was 31 years old, she left the convent, married soon after and had 2 children.  However, after her marriage broke down, she turned to prostitution to help support her daughters.  The unsavoury side of this business eventually got to her and she decided to leave, which precipitated a conscious journey of healing from her own experience of child sexual abuse.  She became celibate for 10 years before entering into a new and different relationship.  Carla has written 3 books to date. Her first book, “God’s Callgirl” was an international bestseller. Carla now works as an author and spiritual life coach.

It has been a privilege to interview Carla in her own home, in Perth, Western Australia.




Hello Carla, your life appears to be a juxtaposition of different roles, a Catholic nun, mother, prostitute, celibacy, spiritual seeker/practitioner and now an author and life coach.  How are all these roles integrated into your life right now?

Hello Joyce! Yes, I have had a long life and all these roles have contributed to who I am right now as an author and spiritual guide. From being a nun, I have gained a deeper understanding of spirituality, and questioning the values of nunhood has helped me enormously to free myself of limiting understandings. Being a mother has only meant more to me in recent years, as I began to be much more of a feeling person and able to feel my children. Being celibate was a great foil to the full-on sexual activity of being a prostitute. That role has taught me much about human nature, why men go to prostitutes, why prostitutes choose their work, and gave me insights into my own motivations. Really, I have been a spiritual seeker all my life but did not find the truth in many places! I have finally been fortunate enough to become associated with the Cosmosis Mentoring Centre and the profound wisdom and unconditional love of the leaders, Michael and Segolene King and others who have been my mentors.



How much impact did the experience of childhood abuse influence your decision to be a nun and then a prostitute? 

Life has plans we never would choose for ourselves, I guess. When I look back, I can give myself reasons for my choices, but I could also say that they were meant to happen so that I would have those experiences to grow from. I entered a convent to hide from life and to suppress my sexuality, which was one mess of confusion to me. Four years after leaving the convent and having experienced sexual passion for the first time at the age of 34, I decided to explore my sexuality in the most honest and varied way I could by becoming a sex worker.



In your experience, do you think most if not all prostitutes had suffered from childhood sexual abuse? 

 This is my personal opinion, although I did read about some survey held some years ago, that most if not all prostitutes have suffered childhood abuse. What I can truly say is that abuse can destroy a certain preciousness a person has about their own sexuality and body, and so might feel that it’s OK for others to use it, and believe that payment makes the use self-respectable. There was a time for sacred prostitution in our ancient history, but that meant being approached by men with deep respect and deep appreciation of the female energies being shared with them. In our society, men are more likely to use prostitutes to dump their negative emotions onto them, literally.



What are some things an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse need to do, in order to heal?

The very first step in healing is to acknowledge what happened. Many abused people still want to avoid fully facing what happened because they are afraid of the emotions that would bring up for them.

The second most important step is self-acceptance! Accepting self exactly as is, warts and all. This is not easy, but if it is by-passed, a person will eventually need to come back to this basic. The reason why it isn’t easy is because an abused person believes they are their feelings, a huge misunderstanding! For a person to release this very common misunderstanding, they need to know who they truly are, and that is a spiritual, much larger self who is able to embrace all of them without judgment.



Shame and anger are a couple of intense emotions which seems to run deep with those who suffered childhood sexual abuse.  Do you have any messages to those trying to process these emotions?

Of these two, anger is much easier to deal with than shame. Anger is sometimes a step in the right direction for a person who has been in denial of what their abuser did, eg when it was their father. Anger needs to be expressed, for sure, but expressed without hurting anyone. It’s not advisable to angrily face your abuser. As persons in the healing process, we need to take responsibility for all of our feelings, and deal with them ourselves. After that, it becomes clear if it might be useful to face an abuser…or not.

Shame is much more difficult to deal with, because of all the emotions a person can experience, this one is the most ‘persuasive,’ meaning the one that tends to make us believe instantly that we are shameful and not just feeling the shameful feeling.

Shamefulness is a state of being. In my experience it can’t be overcome by pushing it away. It needs to be known for the liar it is, but it also needs to be felt. When I allowed this feeling to flow, it felt like a kind of raw electricity as it left me. When it tried to come back in later years, as happened many times, it was my constant job to recognise that this was not the truth of me, and keep on releasing this delusional emotion.  Shame is connected to guilt. We might carry guilt feelings as an abused person, for having co-operated, for instance. This guilt needs to be replaced with compassionate understanding of ourselves as having done the best we could in the circumstances. When guilt is no longer necessary, shame can be dealt with much more easily.



How important do you think getting justice is in the healing process?  ie pressing charges against the perpetrator?

I would say that this is a bit of a minefield, depending on motivations. Getting money to support the healing process as part of getting justice would be a wonderfully practical outcome of a legal challenge.  Revenge motives are not going to work, however. It might not be obvious at the beginning of a healing process, but condemning the perpetrator as well as his actions, inevitably will result in negative consequences.



Do you have any messages that you'd like to express to prostitutes/sex workers and to nuns? 

Wow, seeing these two in one sentence is rather unusual! My main message would be this one: Get to know the motivations for what you choose to do. The real ones, that is, not the ones you have persuaded yourself of…

The choice I made to become a nun was no better a choice than to become a prostitute. They were both choices based on the confusion created by childhood sexual abuse. Both were valuable experiences, and both were experiences I was meant to leave behind. Since then, I have been able to learn from both lifestyles and also release the negative effects of each. Being a nun made me believe I was better than most other people. Really, I wasn’t at all, but I so desperately wanted to be good in the eyes of God! Now I know that each person is equally worthy of love and self-esteem, but that not everyone chooses to live up to this worthiness. Being a prostitute gave me a lot of understanding about my sexuality but I missed out on the innocence of it after I lost the pleasure of my job. I also didn’t understand at the time that by having sex with someone, I would be absorbing their energy into my system. Eventually this messed up the sense of myself in a big way. I was always trying to feel more balanced. Now I know how to clear my energy system and protect it, and I do this every day as a matter of energetic hygiene. It might benefit prostitutes to know how to do this. It would help her or him to keep self-esteem high and have that self-esteem coming from the right place.



Your new book,  Healing from Abuse a Practical Spiritual Guide is about healing from childhood sexual abuse.    Tell me more about it?

This is a book I would have loved to have in my hands when I started my own healing journey. It gently introduces a person to the most powerful healing side of themselves – their spiritual side. This is not generally done in psychology, and it is my hope that therapists will be willing to support the spiritual in their clients. This, by the way, has nothing to do with religion. The God Within is in all of us as that unconditionally loving part of us that does not judge. Spirit within is the one with the healing power; the mind, emotions and soul – they are the ones with the problem! What causes the problems cannot heal them. We need to call on a higher power, but that power is not outside of us, it is to be found within. That powerfully loving part of us, the spark of Eternal Love, is the one that can embrace all, nothing excepted. The compassion is complete. The wisdom is true wisdom. It’s like climbing out of a darkness into wholesome light, and not having to go back there again, ever, because once we have found the truth of this, it stays with us.



Note:  For practitioners who wish to work with their clients using Carla's book and to be on her referral list, you can contact Carla at

Disclaimer : The articles are of the opinion of the author only unless indicated otherwise. They are not written for individual advice. Please use your own discretion and make your own informed decisions about your situation.