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Sophie’s next step: going the extra mile.

This April Door of Hope outreach volunteer, Sophie, steps up to a new challenge, running the London Marathon on behalf of Beyond the Streets.

Sophie first heard of Beyond the Streets through friends and family who were involved in projects supporting women at risk or experiencing sexual exploitation.

“A friend of mine works with vulnerable women and mentioned Beyond the Streets to me so I signed up to the mailing list. Not long later, my sister started volunteering with a project that is connected to Beyond the Streets through their affiliate network. Their stories really inspired me, and I could see how in trying to make an impact themselves, their own lives were being impacted by the women they were volunteering with. Suddenly it felt like I had a cluster of women around me who were advocating for women and felt like it was time for me to step up and play my part. Around the same time, I started working in school in the area where Beyond the Streets Door of Hope operates. I felt like I had a growing attachment to the area and volunteering with Door of Hope was an opportunity to contribute positively to women in the area outside of my working hours”.

Having heard about the work of our Door of Hope project, Sophie applied to join our outreach team in 2016 and has spent the last 18 months volunteering as an outreach worker with Beyond the Streets.

“I had no idea of the severity of what is happening under our noes locally and across the world. My interest in volunteering came from a mixture of curiosity and passion: why are communities locally and globally riddled with sexual exploitation and what can I do to be part of the solution? I wanted to understand, and I wanted to stand alongside women. Hearing conversations about ‘choice’ had enraged me, I knew many women had little to no choice. I wanted to get alongside women who didn’t have a choice and be part of what the Door of Hope project are doing: offering women support, routes out and genuine routes out. Giving them the space to explore the choices they should have had all along.

Eighteen months in, Sophie has become an integral part of the outreach team – loved and appreciated by women and team members alike. But what has volunteering meant to her?

The team are incredible and being around women committed to supporting other women is so empowering. I am amazed by the openness of the women we meet on outreach, I love the legacy that Door of Hope has, they see our flask and instantly know who we are; they know Door of Hope is for them, with no hidden agenda. I’ll never forget a woman introducing us to someone new as “family” to the community of women who sell sex on street. That’s what our investment gives women: family, community”.

Since joining the Door of Hope outreach team, Sophie has spent hours, walking miles to meet with women who are sexually exploited in Tower Hamlets. Why would she choose to run a further 26.2 miles?

“I want people to know about the cause, raising awareness of sexual exploitation and how Beyond the Streets are responding as I push myself to the limit. I’ve always known that if I were to run the marathon I’d want it to be for a charity I can speak well of, a charity that I know and love. I want to raise awareness of what the women I’ve met have lived through and raise money to better support them. It will be hard, but I know it’s nothing in comparison to the hardship women face all the time”.

The funds Sophie raises in sponsorship will go directly towards Beyond the Streets direct support work with women. Our specialist staff can partner with women in their journey out of sexual exploitation, providing the reliable information and specialist support they need to address the issues that cause them to sell sex, allowing them to make a lasting exit from prostitution.

“As a volunteer with Beyond the Streets, I’ve seen first-hand how money raised from my marathon will provide women with what they need to make lasting routes out of prostitution. What I love even more though, is the ‘little extra’s’ it will pay for – things like birthday lunches, Christmas gifts and Easter eggs that Beyond the Streets are committed to gifting- they go the extra mile”.

Staff and volunteers from the Door of Hope project will be lining the course, cheering Sophie on as she runs the marathon on 22nd April. You can support Sophie by sponsoring her today.


“We’re no criminals!” say women formerly involved in Prostitution at the Judicial review of prostitution convictions.

Last week, the Divisional Court heard an application for a judicial review of the Government’s policy in relation to the retention, recording and disclosure of criminal convictions arising from soliciting offences.

This is a highly significant case for women who have been involved in prostitution, heard for the first time on the 17th and 18th January. To highlight this,  we quote the Centre for Women’s Justice, whose full release on the judicial review can be read here.


“The claim, brought by a group of women, formerly involved in prostitution, argued for the first time that the Government legislative scheme discriminates against women and is contrary to the UK’s legal obligations in respect of the trafficking of women.  They will also rely on previous findings that the scheme is a disproportionate interference of their private life.

“I met a pimp aged 15 and two weeks later I was thrown into the violent and abusive world of prostitution. Rape became an occupational hazard, but I was arrested, charged and criminalised for loitering for the purposes of being a common prostitute. After more than twenty years out of prostitution, I am still having to explain my criminal record to any prospective employer.  It feels like explaining my history of abuse” Fiona Broadfoot, Claimant.

The women bringing the claim were exploited and trafficked as teenagers and forced to survive through prostitution for a number of years before getting out. Most of those who have been in street prostitution have multiple convictions under s1 Street Offences Act 1959 which means that when applying for a range of jobs or volunteering activity, DBS checks will result in their histories of prostitution being made known many years after they have left that life behind.

“It doesn’t matter what it is – trying to help out at my kids’ school or the local brownies’ coffee morning, trying to be a governor or a councillor, applying to education or training or employment – even volunteering in so many fields – with children, with the elderly, in care, with vulnerable people, with youth work, with social work – all need a DBS and then you get treated like some sort of pariah or sex offender! But it’s not fair – I never chose that life and I fought hard to get out of it but I’m always being pulled back to it as though that’s who I am but it’s not who I am.” Prostitution survivor.

The women describe their criminal records as a “catalogue of their abuse”, but as victims of rape and sexual abuse they appear to have no entitlement to anonymity in the disclosure process.

“As the judge recognised in an earlier hearing in this case, attitudes to women who have been groomed into prostitution have changed.  Most are controlled and coerced and therefore meet the wider definition of trafficking.  As such this policy is inconsistent with the Modern Slavery Act as it continues to punish victims” said Harriet Wistrich, solicitor for the women.


At Beyond the Streets our direct support projects – Beyond Support and Door of Hope – join women on their journey out of prostitution. We have seen first-hand, the challenge that criminal convictions pose to women as they seek to take steps into employment, with two Beyond Support clients giving testimony to this in evidence that was heard as part of the judicial review. As Karen Ingala Smith, CEO of NIA said in a recent article on the hearing, “It is incredibly difficult to get out of an abusive situation, including prostitution. It’s not as simple as just walking away. Having a criminal record running over several sides of paper cannot help”.

In light of this, we hope to see women’s criminal records for offences relating to Prostitution revoked and propose that looking forward intervention from the criminal justice system should focus on the offer of specialist support that helps women address the issues that cause them to sell sex and pursue genuine alternatives.

 

Read Nia’s I’m No Criminal report here.


New year, new me. A new year’s reflection from Beyond the Streets.

“I don’t really understand myself, because I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it” – The Bible

There’s just coffee creams left, the Christmas cake is a mere slither in the bottom of the tin and on paper there’s no reason why the best laid plans at the end of December shouldn’t kick in now that January is a week old. It’s the month for re-shaping habits, putting into practice the plans we made to improve our future health, wellbeing, sense of contentment, chance of success….

The challenge is that good habits are like muscles. They don’t work themselves. They need decision and action. Once activated they gain strength and it takes less effort to keep them going once they are strong than it does to move ourselves from contemplating that growth to making it happen. I could contemplate the science of inertia and potential and kinetic energy until mid-February, or March, or until the conditions seem a bit better or my mood has changed, or I can start making lots of good choices, minute by minute, hour by hour until I have formed some healthier habits and we’re up and running and I feel better about my life and things seem to start to feel easier.

So, we’re all the same (or is it just me?). All of us, whether we had a cosy Christmas surrounded by loving family or whether our regular reality is the isolation, fear and violence of selling sex continued despite Christmas, all of us face barriers to healthy habits. Some of us just don’t know the care and support of people around us to encourage and cheer us on. Some of us have to face the sense of shame that seems to cripple our best intentions to form other habits. Some of us have had good the opportunity of good ‘choices’ taken away by those who control us. People getting alongside each other makes it so much easier to turn contemplation into action.

Our team at Beyond the Streets, come alongside women as they seek to make changes to their lives and steps away from Prostitution. From contemplation to action, we walk with women, cheering them on as they take positive steps forward and continuing to believe in them when they are backwards in coming forwards. One woman supported by Beyond Support told us;

“Thank you for everything. You have been amazing being able to help me draw upon my strengths of sorts that they are. If it wasn’t for your support I know I would be in a dreadful place still but I’m not. The reality is I can make my own choices/decisions and you’ve been instrumental in making me able to realise my own potential.  It’s that that is wondrous.”

Wishing you a hope-filled 2018 from all at Beyond The Streets.

Everyday Beyond Support offers a listening ear to women  as they transition out of the sex industry. It costs us just over £50 for our specialist staff to take a call from a women. Fund our next call by making a gift towards Beyond Support today, or help secure our service by giving regularly.

Words by Miriam, who works for Beyond the Streets as the Clinical Lead for Beyond Support – our call back service for women involved in prostitution. She is passionate about people’s tough lives being transformed.


The priceless gift: a Christmas reflection.

As the boxes arrive from my online orders and I wrap them to put under the tree, I have been thinking what it is like for us to feel misunderstood, parcelled up and told we have to fit a certain shape.

This is what one woman wrote after talking with one of our Beyond Support workers on the phone over the past few months:

“When I’ve tried to access other support services, I’ve been either turned away, judged or shoved in a box by people who just don’t understand. They expect me to behave in a certain way, feel a certain way. They categorise me based on what they already know, rather than trying to understand how I may not react the same way as someone in a violent domestic relationship, or someone with an addiction. It’s like you’re a jigsaw puzzle piece that just doesn’t fit and every time they try to force you into a space that doesn’t fit it just bends and disfigures you, making you feel even more alienated than before.

Beyond Support don’t try to categorise you, or judge or turn you away. They don’t treat you like a misfitting jigsaw piece or anything other than you for that matter. For me, they just give me back that small moment of being treated like a normal human being again. I’m not pushed away or categorised, they don’t examine you like something new and fascinating, they just…listen. Listening may not seem like much, but when you’ve been ignored, talked over and silenced as much as I have, it means a lot.

There needs to be more services like Beyond Support to help anyone who finds themselves in a similar position. To be listened to and understood is so fundamental to feeling like a person, and for people whose very sense of being is so often destroyed, this seemingly simple gesture is priceless”. Quoted with permission.

This Christmas, as you gather with loved ones – many or few – we hope that you enjoy the simple, priceless gesture of being known, loved and listened to.

Happy Christmas and a hope-filled 2018 from all at Beyond The Streets.

Everyday Beyond Support offers a listening ear to women  as they transition out of the sex industry. It costs us just over £50 for our specialist staff to take a call from a women. Fund our next call by making a gift towards Beyond Support today, or help secure our service by giving regularly.

Words by Miriam, who works for Beyond the Streets as the Clinical Lead for Beyond Support – our call back service for women involved in prostitution. She is passionate about people’s tough lives being transformed.


Her snakes. Her ladders.

In March 2017, Beyond the Streets in partnership with Dr Katie Thorlby, published ‘We need all the ladders we can get’ a toolkit designed to facilitate exploration of how individuals leave prostitution and uses the game of snakes and ladders to do this. It draws on Katie’s ethnographic research with women and staff at social enterprises supporting women to leave prostitution, as well as wider research on exiting prostitution, and has been road tested with different projects in the UK.

Beyond the Streets have used the toolkit as a training tool with staff, volunteers and affiliated projects as well as with women themselves. We recognise that for women seeking to leave prostitution, the obstacles can be immense. Research studies show that leaving prostitution is a complex process, not a one-off event, and women face multiple barriers along the way. Debt, housing, addiction, emotional trauma, societal stigma, unhealthy relationships, being able to earn more in prostitution and lack of an economic alternative were just a few of the 40+ barriers identified by these women who took part in Katie’s research.

But routes out exist. The very lives of the women who participated in the research were evidence that it is possible to transition out of prostitution. It was their willingness to share their knowledge and experiences that led to the identification of a range of enabling factors that support women on their journey out of prostitution.

Since launching this resource back in March, Beyond the Streets staff have begun using this toolkit with women we are working with through our direct support projects. As we play a simple game of snakes and ladders with women they reflect back to us the snakes and ladders in their own lives- the barriers to them exiting prostitution and the enabling factors that aid their journey out. Once identified, it’s these factors that we work with them on, battling barriers together and holding the bottom of the ladder for them as they take steps upwards into a better future.

The toolkit has been wonderfully received by women, one of whom went an extra step- sketching out her own board plotted with the snakes and ladders in her life. She has given us permission to share her sketch- for which we are very grateful. Our hope is that her art and life will help you better understand the barriers women face in exiting and inspire you to use this toolkit with women in your own life.


International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

The 25th of November is the UN International End Violence against Women Day which raises awareness of the gender-based violence and discrimination that many women face and experience every day.

Violence against women is deeply and historically entrenched into society. The A Hidden History of Women in the East End: The Alternative Jack the Ripper tour’s that launched this month confirm this. The tours – which narrate the untold story of Jack the Ripper’s victims – juxtapose a historical case of violence against women in prostitution with the modern day stories of women who experience violence selling sex for sell for survival in the area today.

Women in prostitution are often seen this way: as different. Women in prostitution often experience even higher levels of risk of discrimination and violence than women on average. The abuse and hate crime directed towards women involved in prostitution is often justified by idea that these women are ‘prostitutes’ not individuals.

Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, said of the violent rapes and murders he committed “the women I killed were filth – bastard prostitutes who were littering the streets. I was just clearing up the place a bit”. Had he been caught, we imagine the unidentified murdered commonly known as ‘Jack the Ripper’ would have made a similar statement.

These were women who were unworthy and judged. These were women who did not matter. These were women who could be discriminated against and despised. These were women who didn’t count.

We believe women matter. We believe their lives count for something. At Beyond the Streets we are working to provide routes out for women who have experienced violence and sexual exploitation. Our NOvember campaign is raising awareness and funds to fight against sexual exploitation and violence against women. As activists across the world take action today to say no to violence against women, why don’t you join them. We’ve got a few suggestions as to how you can leave your mark.

  1. Challenge Attitudes & Don’t collude.

Share what you’ve learnt through our #NOvemberCampaign blog series and challenge people about the way they view women. One way you can take action in this way is by challenging jokes/humour that are made towards women involved in prostitution.

  1. Give

This #NOvemberCampaign we are trying to raise £18,000 to keep Door of Hope’s outreach to women who are sexually exploited in the east London going for another year.  Help us reach our target by giving us a one of gift of £18 or partnering with us by giving regularly.

  1. Join us on an A Hidden History of Women in the East End: Alternative Jack the Ripper Tour.

Tickets for 2017 have now sold out, but we’ve just released new dates for 2018. Book your ticket for a tour in the new year today.


#NOvemberCampaign: Journey

We are all on a journey, but the women we work with at Door of Hope tend to be on the road less travelled. It’s not a common route and that can make it a lonely road, where it’s rare to bump into people that know and understand you along the way. Being off the beaten track, it’s common for women to encounter regular be bumps in the road, or blocks along the way.

On Door of Hope outreach we see these difficult journeys play out in reality too: with women walking the streets selling sex, or being in transported in cars to clients by those who can control them.

In 2012, research by Eaves released in a report called ‘Breaking down the barriers’ dug into this topic, exploring women’s experiences of leaving prostitution, with a focus on the barriers women experienced on their journey out. They found nine major stumbling blocks for women: problematic substance misuse, debt, housing, mental and physical health issues to name a few. But crucially, what did they find was key to overcoming the barriers? The people and specialist organization’s that journey alongside them. “This research has found that there is a need for formal exiting services to help women out of prostitution and that exit is achievable. Women can and do wish to leave prostitution and express the need for both formal and informal forms of support to do so”

That’s where Door of Hope comes in. Our role is to journey alongside women on the path she is on. We stand alongside women, working at her pace, in her space on the blocks and bumps that she feels hinder her journey out of prostitution. Our team provide the consistent support and reliable advice that she needs to find a lasting route out of prostitution.

This week we consider how we can make sacrifices to our daily journeys to support theirs – donating the money saved from the changes to our commute or regular trips we make or sponsorship we receive to fund the journey out of prostitution that Door of Hope is on with dozens of women in east London.

Stand in solidarity with women this month by taking part in the #NovemberCampaign or by making a gift  of £18 to support the Door of Hope project, for which we hope to raise £18,000 through the #NOvemberCampaign.

 


#NOvemberCampaign: Social

 

This NOvember I am saying ‘no’ to sexual exploitation and violence. This week we are asked to stand with women by giving up something social.

You know when you arrange to meet someone for a night out, you turn up on your own and find they haven’t arrived yet? I adopt a confident air and then resort to looking at my phone rather than appear like a loner. I prefer going together and meeting up with a group of friends, where I feel accepted, part of something. Even if it’s been a tough week, an evening of feeling in the middle can be a comfort. Talking with someone who cares can halve the effect of the problem.

What if every night I found myself waiting alone, knowing that the company of the people I meet and spend time with would compound my loneliness? What if this part of my life was not known to those closest to me, or, worse still, was enforced upon me by them so that I could reach their ‘quota’ for the night? That could make a pleasant night out with friends difficult to find or enjoy. When the Door of Hope team go out on the streets in East London, they meet women who stand alone, for whom isolation is a way of life.

One woman told the team, ‘You can’t have certain circles of friends because you can’t talk about what you do, because society doesn’t accept what you do, or doesn’t want to know what we do.’

When Door of Hope turn up, they do want to know. They bring some solidarity, someone who is bothered. Women have described it as a ‘lifeline’ just to have that friendly contact.

This NOvember, people have chosen to give up something different each week. Why not join us and say ‘NO’ to a night out with friends? If you donate what you save to Beyond the Streets, you could help fund a night’s outreach.

Stand in solidarity with women this month by taking part in the #NovemberCampaign or by making a gift  of £18 to support the Door of Hope project, for which we hope to raise £18,000 through the #NOvemberCampaign.

Miriam works for Beyond the Streets as the Clinical Lead for Beyond Support – our call back service for women involved in prostitution. She is passionate about people’s tough lives being transformed. Miriam is saying no to sugar this #NOvemberCampaign, sponsor her here.


#NOvemberCampaign : Simplicity

‘Live simply, so others can simply live.’

This November I am saying no to sexual exploitation and violence. This week we are asked to strip back by losing one luxury item.

When I think about my life it don’t think of it being filled with luxury. I have a flat, a job, bills to keep on top of, I have friends and family to keep in touch with, a social life, a bit of volunteering here and there. My life, like many of your lives, is complicated but not necessarily luxurious. Juggling all those aspects of my life requires thinking and planning, the choices I need to make to keep it all ticking over.

I can’t help but think how different this is from the life of the women I met when volunteering for Door of Hope in East London. Many people call their lives chaotic or complex but in fact, by my reckoning, they are simple: survival. Their lives are dictated by an all-consuming addiction and often a controlling partner. The money they make provides for their addiction, and often their partners’, and just enough to keep a roof above their head.

They are the victims of a cruel cycle of relentless poverty. Poverty of choice as well as poverty of means.

As I would head home to my warm, safe flat for a snack and then a long sleep they would still be out in the cold, surviving.

I can’t help but think that the complexity of my life is a luxury in itself. I have the space to think about what to buy my friend for their birthday, or what time I need to catch a train to get to my 9am meeting. These things seem mundane, even dull; but in fact illustrate a life luxurious with complexity and choice.

So, what luxury will you give up to live a less complicated life for this week?

Stand in solidarity with women this month by taking part in the #NovemberCampaign or by making a gift  of £18 to support the Door of Hope project, for which we hope to raise £18,000 through the #NOvemberCampaign.

Words by Anna who until recently, volunteered with the Door of Hope project.


#NOvemberCampaign : Comfort

2017, the year we got Trumped and terrorised. Theresa May was re-elected as our leading lady and millions of women marched in the largest worldwide protest in recent history. I’ll remember it as the year that homelessness rose for the sixth year in succession- already up 16% in 2016, researchers are expecting that statistic to double when the data for this year is released.

As an outreach worker for Beyond the Streets Door of Hope project, working on the front line with women who are sexually exploited in London’s East End, our team tend to be the first to notice these trends, reflected in the lives of the women we work with and the stories they share with us.

This year has been a busy one for the Door of Hope team, we’ve seen a sharp rise in the number of women we meet on outreach. In 2016 Door of Hope supported 64 women in total over twelve months. By February 2017 our team had already supported 64 women in the first two months of the year, and have added dozens more to our caseload as the year has progressed. We work with women who became involved in street prostitution as a result of complex vulnerabilities- a last resort response to insurmountable struggles. Most have been pushed to the very edge through poverty, lack of opportunity and social exclusion. Their support needs are varied and wide ranging, but increasingly the common theme we see running through their lives is homelessness.

Here’s the thing about us women: we’re a resourceful bunch. You won’t necessarily see us rough sleeping outside your local station, or queuing for the local night shelter- we’ll do what we need to do to find a safer alternative. For the women Door of Hope supports that’s a night on a 24 hour bus, exchanging sex for a place to stay and, increasingly, sofa surfing- tapping up old friends, distant family and punters for a sofa to sleep on.

A survey of 458 recent or current rough sleepers in England and Wales undertaken by Crisis confirms this. It suggests that there is a total of 68,000 women in temporary accommodation, emergency shelters and sleeping on the streets. However, Crisis follow this was a caveat, recognising that an estimated 62% of single homeless people are hidden ‘sofa surfers’ who won’t show up in  statistics equating to a further 68,300 people sofa surfing in the UK today, many of them women. Within the hidden issues of sexual exploitation, is a growing issue of hidden homelessness.

This week Beyond the Streets launches the #NOvemberCampaign – asking supporters to give up something they love to stand in solidarity with sexually exploited women. Each week of November we explore a new theme, inspired by the lives of the women we work with at Door of Hope. This week’s theme is comfort, or rather a recognition of the lack of it in the lives of the women we work with.

As I considered what to give up this week, I noticed how many of my own comforts – the things that put me at ease and keep me well – are connected to having a safe and happy home. Access to warming hot drinks, heating and hot baths makes home a place of comfort for me, a haven if you like. For the women we work with, sexual exploitation, homelessness and the resulting complexities result in a life focused on survival, where comfort is off limits. This week I’ll be sacrificing the comfort of hot caffeinated drinks – hoping that the money I save and awareness I raise, will build a better tomorrow for the women I work with.

 

What comfort can you say no to this week? Stand in solidarity with women this month by taking part in the #NovemberCampaign or by making a gift  of £18 to support the Door of Hope project, for which we hope to raise £18,000 through the #NOvemberCampaign.

Born and bred in east London, Rebecca co-ordinates Beyond the Streets Door of Hope project. You can hear Rebecca talk more about Door of Hope by joining us on an Alternative Jack the Ripper Tour, launching this November.