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Women involved in prostitution*

This theme explores the issues surrounding women involved in prostitution who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and is being led by Expert Group members Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of Drugscope, and Davina James-Hanman, Director of Against Violence and Abuse (AVA). Read the theme round-up here.

In their blog, Davina James-Hanman and Martin Barnes write:

At a time when ‘sex work’ can be normalised, and even glamourised, the reality is that women involved in prostitution often use drugs and/or alcohol to cope with selling sex (and the violence and abuse in their lives) and often sell sex to support addiction. It is a vicious circle.”

How do we make sure women get the right help, at the right time? We want to hear from practitioners on the ground and from women using services themselves, about what works and what support is missing.

In particular, we are keen to hear from a range of agencies including:

  • Sexual health services
  • Safety support
  • Legal/advocacy advice
  • Exiting prostitution support
  • Employment and skills projects
  • Housing/homelessness services

Please also submit any relevant research so we can gather this together to improve the support out there for women. 

*All images used during this theme in emails and across http://www.rebuildingshatteredlives.org are stock images. The women photographed are not connected with the subject matter.


Theme started on: 04 Nov 2013

18 Submissions

  1. Heather Harvey

    Brand new research by Eaves on problematic alcohol use amongst women involved in prostitution (funded by Alcohol Research UK): http://i1.cmsfiles.com/eaves/2012/11/Breaking-down-the-barriers-a37d80.pdf

    Also, two other relevant research documents:
    ‘Breaking Down Barriers: A study of how women exit prostitution’: http://i1.cmsfiles.com/eaves/2012/11/Breaking-down-the-barriers-a37d80.pdf
    ‘Capital Exploits: A Study of Prostitution and Trafficking in London’: http://i3.cmsfiles.com/eaves/2013/06/Capital-Exploits-June-2013.pdf-da8819.pdf

  2. Yvette Hector

    Trust is a community based women’s project offering support and opportunities for vulnerable women in South London, including women involved in, exploited through or exited from prostitution and involved in, moving on from, or at risk of involvement in the Criminal Justice System. Trust also provides an aftercare service for women who have exited prostitution, drug and alcohol use or offending and are looking to make positive changes in their lives.

    One of the services Trust provides is with Camberwell Magistrates Court and the Crown Prosecution Service in Lambeth to provide women arrested for street prostitution with an optional court diversion scheme. Women who choose to access the scheme can have their case discontinued if they attend two support sessions with Trust’s specialist court worker. These sessions focus on improving the women’s immediate situations, as well as providing them with the opportunity and the support to make lasting changes to their lives.

    For more information see: http://www.trust-london.com

  3. Joy Doal

    Anawim’s mission statement is to support women and their children, especially women vulnerable to exploitation
    including prostitution. It seeks to provide wider positive choices to help them achieve their goals and reach their full potential as part of the wider community. To this end Anawim treats everyone with dignity and respect, recognising that every woman and child matters as an individual. Anawim seeks to work with partners and other agencies to challenge that which degrades and diminishes.

    In April 2012, Anawim started a pilot project in partnership with the Department of Health by creating a Mental Health Alternatives to Custody Project.

    The Preliminary Evaluation Report on the Anawim Mental Health Alternatives to Custody Pilot Project is attached.

  4. OIWG

    “I have worked on the streets and been cared for by One25 for over ten years now. In that time on those dangerous streets they gave me daily love, care and respite from the chaotic lifestyle that I was caught up in. I would like to express my immense gratitude to them and to the [St Mungo’s] Women’s Hostel crash pad staff for their outstanding support. It very probably saved my life and enabled me to come into recovery and start making changes in my life.

    “I am now six months clean and sober and I no longer work the streets. My life has changed beyond belief! I feel that without the support of One25 and the use of the crash pad when I was homeless and vulnerable I would not be where I am today. A million thanks.”

    For more information see: http://rebuildingshatteredlives.org/chloes-story/

  5. Esther Sample

    The Chrysalis Project is a joint enterprise between Commonweal Housing, St Mungo’s and Lambeth Council. It provides high-quality accommodation and support for homeless women involved in street prostitution in South London.

    1. chrysalis-project.pdf
  6. Routes Out Community Safety Glasgow

    The Routes Out service is part of Glasgow Community & Safety Services (GCSS) which aims to prevent crime, tackle antisocial behaviour and promote community safety. Routes Out adopts the Glasgow City Council policy on prostitution which views it as inherently harmful to those involved and therefore aims to reduce the prevalence of street prostitution in Glasgow.

    The service works in partnership with Police Scotland, Glasgow City Council and the Third Sector to:
    • Increase the intelligence picture of street prostitution across Glasgow
    • Prevent women from becoming involved in street prostitution
    • Support women to exit prostitution
    • Tackle the demand for street prostitution
    • Reduce the impact of street prostitution on communities

    Routes Out Annual Report 2012-13 attached.

  7. Daniela Scotece

    POW Nottingham is a model PEER led charity that promotes health and dignity in prostitution through empowerment, support and peer education.

    Our Aims
    -Provide support and information to minimise the risk of sexually transmitted infections and HIV
    -Provide a route out of prostitution for those who want to exit
    -To provide a service that is sensitive to and responds to the needs of all service users
    -One to one support to help individuals make positive lifestyle changes
    -To identify an appropriate communication tool to assess the individual need of the client in order to promote health education and health promotion
    -Provide individuals and agencies with a true picture of prostitution and its effects on individuals including the increased use of drugs
    -To actively promote the opportunities of lifestyle changes for all POW clients
    -To promote understanding and awareness in the wider community, amongst other voluntary agencies and statutory organisations on all matters regarding prostitution and drug use
    -Educate where necessary young people the nature of the risks of becoming involved in prostitution.

    For more information see: http://www.pow-advice.co.uk/

  8. Rosslyn Okumu

    Door of Hope is a Christian Project providing outreach services for women involved in street prostitution in Spitalfields in East London.

    For more information see: http://www.doorofhope.org.uk/

  9. OIWG

    Quotes from St Mungo’s Women’s Peer Research 2013 on difficulties staying in same area when trying to move on:

    ‘I would like to move outside this area as well because I think maybe, you’ve got to bear in mind that I’ve sex worked here and used in here and I’ve lived here for a number of years so I’m known to a lot of people so even when I try to change my life people know me so there’s always going to be that continuous persuasion, temptation and people trying to lure me back into that lifestyle.’

    ‘It’s difficult because I’m faced with people who try to offer me drugs on a daily basis, and people who know my past - I’ll be walking down the road and I’ve had men who know me from the past and they’ve tried to stop me in the street, begged me to take a lift from them, asked me for my number and tried to lure me back into that way of life. [Must be quite difficult?] Yeah, it is.’

    ‘Years ago, it was very difficult to go past areas where I used to sex-work, even going to the drugs service. It is very hard for girls who are still working, too many distractions’.

  10. OIWG

    Quotes from women’s peer research on judgement/stigma:

    ‘Stuff had been written about me from a previous hostel about me being a sex worker, it was then passed on to here which I disputed because it wasn’t true. In the past I had been, yes, but this is going back a long, long time, before I even had a drug problem funnily enough…it was quite annoying to have something written down in black and white about you that isn’t true.’

    ‘They’re concerned (local vulnerable adult team etc). Warning notices are issued but they don’t really help. I feel penalized when the wrong conclusions are drawn.’

  11. Jade Tovey

    Lambeth Community Safety Briefing on Prostitution:

    The Council has supported the development of the Safer Lambeth Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy, despite the current financial climate, by committing to maintaining current patterns of provision in the borough and increasing investment over the life of the strategy. Safer Lambeth produced first integrated VAWG Strategy in July 2011. Research, service user consultation and allocated funding underpins the strategy.

  12. Sarah Vernon

    Brighter Futures Sexual Exploitation Services
    Brighter Futures Sexual Exploitation Service has been in operation for over 15 years within the Stoke on Trent area working with vulnerable women and men with multiple and complex needs who are involved in or at risk of sexual exploitation. The service supports women and men involved in sex work on the streets, in parlours, their own homes, or on the telephone.
    We provide a one stop centre to assist customers with support tailored to the needs of the individuals. The staff team provide outreach sessions at least twice a week to engage with street sex workers and also visit local massage parlours. The outreach sessions are crucial to our work. We promote good sexual health practises by providing condoms and sexual health advice and it enables us to identify those workers who are either homeless or suffering with housing difficulties.
    We work closely with the Brighter Futures Rough Sleeper Team, the Homeless Hostel and Chepstow House (Community Project for Women Offenders) to provide short term accommodation solutions and support, enabling us to then work closely with the customer and partner agencies to secure more permanent and sustainable housing. This method of joint working has proved to be successful in the reduction of homelessness to women involved in sex work and reduction in reoffending for women supported through Chepstow house.
    The women’s project aims to provide our customers with alternative choices to enable them to make positive lifestyle changes.
    Working closely with partner agencies to:-
    • Support women to exit sex work
    • Prevent women from becoming involved in sex work.
    • Provide support and information to minimise the risk of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.
    • Assist those sex workers who are homeless to achieve secure and stable accommodation.
    • Reduce the numbers of sex workers who are not involved in education, employment or training.
    • Provide monthly Ugly mug bulletins in liaison with local police in order to promote safer working practices and support workers throughout court proceedings whether as a victim or offender.
    • Obtain a clear intelligence overview of the levels of sex work in the area.
    • We support and encourage customers to re-engage in education, training and ultimately achieve employment.
    Daily customer drop in sessions are provided where clothing and shower facilities are made available. One to one support is provided in order to address the individual needs of the customer. Staff are trained in a wide variety of areas to provide expert advice regarding housing, benefits and health related issues and to support customers to achieve their goals by signposting them to partner agencies such as drug/alcohol services, mental health services and social services.
    We support and supervise women who are subject to Engagement and Support Orders. The orders are an alternative to a financial penalty when women are arrested for soliciting and are issued by the magistrate’s court, to provide support to find a route out of sex work. The Engagement and Support Order consists of three set appointments over a 6 month period with structured support in between. Through a multi-agency approach the orders have proved to be a success in assisting sex workers to lead more fulfilling lives.
    Within Brighter Futures there are two specialist services which provide an example of the level of support available; these are Hopwood house and Chepstow house.
    Hopwood House
    Hopwood House is an accommodation based housing related support service to assist individuals with substance and dependency issues within the city.
    There is a designated area for females to be accommodated in recognition of the fact that some females may have experienced domestic abuse. This enables a safe environment for the female customer to identify the triggers to their substance misuse. A support worker will help each individual to develop their own plan based upon their individual needs surrounding substance misuse using the outcome star approach.
    Chepstow House - Community Project for Women Offenders
    Chepstow House helps women to find and keep accommodation, manage their money, deal with debts, overcome drug and alcohol abuse, manage their relationships, be better parents, improve their health as well as accessing training and employment. It also offers counselling and therapeutic interventions to deal with the emotional trauma caused by abuse, rape, domestic violence and sex work.
    Brighter Futures
    Is a voluntary organisation that puts the highest professional standards at the heart of all it does. It is a “champion” of best practice for the Government Department of Communities and Local Government and it has just won an NHS Innovation Champion award. All our work is delivered in accordance with Brighter Futures values and employs defined methodologies with have been developed over the last 25 years.
    We are a one-stop shop for people with complex needs. Our work is as varied as our customers. We are united by our ability to create effective solutions and to offer a Brighter Future to all.

  13. Lift Campaign

    LIFT was set up as the Tower Hamlets Residents Solidarity Campaign by a group of Tower Hamlets residents in March 2012 in support of women involved in street-based prostitution in the borough, who were being increasingly targeted in the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympics.

    For more information see: http://liftcampaign.org.uk/

  14. Revolving Doors Agency

    Street Talk

    ‘An evaluation of a counselling service for women involved in street based prostitution and  victims of trafficking’

    Carried out by Revolving Doors



    Revolving Doors is a charity working across England to change systems and improve services for people with multiple problems, including poor mental health, who are in repeat contact with the criminal justice system.

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