How Do You See Yourself?
What are the common factors for women who sustain distance from previous involvement with prostitution?
One of our trustees, Dr Katie Thorlby, completed her Phd thesis last year on “Global Perspectives on Sustainable Exit from Prostitution”. In this thesis she concludes that ‘the process of ‘moving on’ or sustaining an exit from prostitution is frequently wrapped up with issues of identity and a restructuring of everyday life.’
She quotes Law (2011) who observed in her study of women transitioning out of ‘sex work’ that ‘many participants had a difficult time ‘letting go’ of their sex worker identities and so in this respect their identity transitions were characterized by conflict.’
At Beyond Support, we hear of this conflict as we speak with women on the phone, who want to move away from selling sex but who find it has stuck itself to them. The big question is, ‘How does a woman see herself?’ Once we are isolated from relationships where we are free to make choices and be the person we were created to be, it is hard to see ourselves as anything other than either what we are told to be by those who have forced our isolation, or what he have settled for because we believe it is how we appear to others.
One woman asked me on the phone, “Do you think I’m afraid of change?”
I was a sounding board for A, who desperately wanted to find a new way of life and to see herself as capable and able to make positive decisions. When I replied, “Do you think you are afraid of change?” she decided she was, but made the tough decision not to let that stop her. She eventually left an abusive relationship, stopped selling sex and found employment, which brought her a new social network. She said, “You have helped me to be assertive and confident.” She wanted someone to talk to, who would listen, not judge and not label her so that she could work out what she really wanted and find the encouragement to go for it. She told me she no longer wanted to regard herself as a “working girl.” So it would seem that this is how she moved on.
Her involvement with prostitution was something that wouldn’t define her and would not be an identity she took into the future.
Law, T. (2011) Not a Sob Story: Transitioning Out of Sex, MA Thesis, University of Ottawa.
Thorlby,K.E., (2015) Global Perspectives on Sustainable Exit from Prostitution: An analysis of social enterprise approaches adopted by faith-based projects supporting women to leave prostitution, Durham University