Tania Fiolleau
Community Featured Justice

Escaping Sexual Slavery

A lot of people can say that they are against sexual slavery, but few can say that they actually lived through it. Tania Fiolleau once lived as a prostituted person and later went on to run several successful brothels as a madam. Her story is one of deep tragedy but even greater redemption.

“My father was an alcoholic,” says Fiolleau. There was a tremendous amount of abuse in her home, so much so that authorities got involved. Fiolleau’s mother was unwilling to leave her husband and lost custody of her child. At 11, Fiolleau was put into foster care.

She stayed in 13 different homes throughout her childhood. “Nobody wants to adopt you when you’re that age so I just kept moving around,” she recalls. “I felt that nobody wanted me.”

One day out of sadness and desperation, Fiolleau stuck her thumb out on the highway hoping to hitchhike far away. A man driving a semi picked her up and subsequently raped her. “I’d always dreamt of keeping my virginity till my wedding day . . . those dreams were shattered,” she says.

Years later she married someone who was just like her father. “I had no self esteem when I was with him. He would call me names and put me down,” she says. “If I was with a guy that was treating me like gold, I didn’t feel like I belonged ’cause I was used to the abuse.”

Not only did he verbally abuse her, he was convicted several times of spousal abuse. “On his last conviction, he ran me over with his work van,” she recalls.

When she was admitted to the hospital, Fiolleau was faced with the same decision her mother was faced with years ago: stay with her abusive husband or leave with her children. “I didn’t want my kids to feel the sense of abandonment that I felt,” she says.

Fiolleau needed $7,000 to retain a lawyer. She didn’t know what to do. While flipping through the newspaper she came across an ad in the paper that read, “Earn the sum of up to $1,500 a day. Fun, friendly safe environment, female owned and operated.” She went in for an interview and subsequently got the job.

During her first appointment, Fiolleau found out that she was working in a brothel. “I made $1,700 that night . . . When I came home, I jumped in the shower, scrubbed my body, scrubbed it raw, and slinked down to the shower just bawling my eyes out.”

Soon after, Fiolleau decided to become a madam so she could run her own brothels. “I took over one that was going downhill and made it successful.”

Meanwhile, word got to the court that she was working in the sex industry. “I was not being judged as an abused battered women protecting the lives of her and her kids; I was being charged as a dirty prostitute,” says Fiolleau. “This dragged on four-and-a-half years and during that time I fell in love, I remarried. I found out after I had married, that [my husband was] in an organized crime family and was a murder suspect. The odds were stacked against me.”

It was then when she had a breaking point and cried out to God asking him to prove himself to her by giving her custody of her kids. “The next morning I found out by grabbing the paper that I had won sole custody,” she remembers.

Fiolleau began going to church regularly. She took over a tanking tanning salon and turned it into a profitable business. Fiolleau also owned a home. This was a fresh start for her, but things weren’t all roses from there. Just when she seemed to have it all, she heard God telling her to give it all up. Following His instruction she closed her business.

Fiolleau could no longer pay her mortgage and her home went into foreclosure. She spent months living in her car with her son.

She didn’t understand it then, but God was humbling her. “Now I have girls that I rescue and they say, ‘Well Tania, it was easy for you to get out cause you were a madam and you had money.’ I [say], ‘Really? I went to the food bank, I lived in my car, I went to churches, I went to women’s resource centers,’” she says. “A lot of women that say they get into prostitution by choice. It’s never by choice cause if they could make the same money doing something they liked, they’d be doing that.”

After a time of struggle, Fiolleau was granted housing through the government. It was only after she had gone through all this that her work as an abolitionist began. She became a media commentator speaking out against prostitution. Her background as a trafficker gave her credibility.

Today she continues her ministry by reaching out to prostituted women and sharing the gospel with them. Although she was financially secure before, she would not trade the life she now has. “I’m not wealthy now, I’m quite the opposite, but I’m a lot more rich in other ways,” she says.

Tania Fiolleau is the author of Souled Out!, for more information on her ministry visit savethewomen.ca