Over the last week, our team have been gripped the by BBC three part series ‘Three Girls’, the dramatized story of the Rochdale grooming scandal. The series followed the lives of three girls, ‘Amber, Ruby and Holly’- each groomed into child sexual exploitation as teenagers by local predators and follows their courageous journey to prosecute their abusers, despite the failings of support services along the way.
We know that the experiences of those three girls – and the many others who survived child sexual exploitation in Rochdale – isn’t an isolated incident, but rather reflective of many women and children across the UK who have been preyed upon and now find themselves involved in prostitution.
Three Girls highlighted the support available for victims of Child Sexual Exploitation. But what happens when those children become women? As they enter into adulthood, child sexual exploitation often becomes legitimised as sex work or prostitution. Overnight, exploitation becomes a ‘choice’. We know that many women didn’t make a choice to enter prostitution, rather those that groomed them made that choice.
Through Beyond Support– the UK’s only call-back support service for women in the sex industry- we hear stories like those brought to life in Three Girls on a daily basis. Research has identified that between 50% – 76% of women involved in prostitution started before the age of 18- for the majority of women involved in prostitution, their involvement began as child sexual exploitation*. This is something many women who have contacted Beyond Support have confirmed, tracing their journey into prostitution back to their teenage years, often due to the
coercive control of another person. Since we launched our service two years ago, we have had the privilege of supporting many women involved in the sex industry who are looking to make changes to their life. Last week we celebrated supporting the 100th situation since our service began! We exist to support women, standing alongside them as they make changes to their life and enabling them to find a lasting route out of prostitution. Alongside this, Beyond Support connects with people who are struggling to comprehend what happened to them in their formative years. If you have been affected by grooming and child sexual exploitation as a young person, our team can unpack that with you and if you’d like, connect you with local support services for face to face support.
No need to take our word for it, here is what one Beyond Support caller told us about our service: “I want to thank you guys for everything you have done. Showing me lots of patience and believing me when I didn’t believe in myself”.
We are delighted to have been able to stand alongside 100 women taking brave steps forward. We believe your story and we believe that you can make the change you want to see in your life. For support from our team contact 0800 133 7870 or e mail: email@example.com. Please note that we are not a helpline, please l eave a message and we will contact you to arrange times that work for you.
*References: Hester and Westmarland, op cit.; Bindel, J. (2006) No Escape? An Investigation into London’s Service Provision for Women Involved in the Commercial Sex Industry, London: Poppy Project, EAVES; Dickson, in: http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/Documents/Community-safety-and-emergencies/Domestic-violence/VAWG-REPORT.pdf
Earlier this week, Beyond the Streets hosted Safeguarding Training for staff and volunteers working with women involved in Prostitution across the UK. These days aren’t necessarily just about Beyond the Streets giving out guidelines, but rather the facilitation of a conversation on best practice between skilled specialist projects.
We work in a specialist area, with a complex client group. It is niche and isolated work, where resources are hard to come by. For me, the highlight and help of these events comes from contribution of those in the room. Training brings together scattered specialists to share their hard earned experience and lessons learned along the way. Here are the top five tips on Safeguarding that I took back to east London:
1. A multi-agency approach is key. It gathers different pieces of the puzzle.
It’s likely that the woman you’re working with is in contact with multiple professionals in your area. Her disclosures to you, could be one piece of the puzzle. When shared safely (with consent*) in a confidential multi-agency setting, the pieces that other professionals can lay can you give you all a clearer picture of her situation, resulting in the development of a co-ordinated multi-agency response.
*We should note, where safeguarding ‘red flags’ are disclosed (she is under the age of 18, pregnancy etc) it is good practice to report her disclosure, regardless of consent.
2. Listen for her voice.
Where possible, involve her in the reporting and referrals that need to be made to keep her safe. Let her shape her own safety plan.
3. Be prepared to fight her corner.
We celebrated how far safeguarding has come, whilst remaining aware of the systematic flaws that so often fail the women we work with. Everybody should be safeguarded, but we know that not everybody is. It’s likely that in some cases her safety is something that you will need to fight for, advocating on her behalf and holding other professionals to account.
4. Invest in good relationships.
You don’t need to know everything, if you know others that know something. Developing good relationships with other professionals in this specialist’s area, opens up a pool of skills and experience for you to dip into. Don’t hesitate to ask others for their input. Try to cultivate a culture of exchange in your network by demonstrating an openness in sharing learning. Other projects are collaborators, not competition. Becoming a Beyond the Streets Affiliate is a great way to connect with other specialist projects and you’ll also receive a discount on training and our Good Practice Guide. Email us for information on becoming an affiliate project.
5. Safeguard yourself.
It goes without saying that in safeguarding women involved in prostitution, our empathetic engagement with her situation can impact our own. Debrief with your team, engage with clinical supervision where available and carve out time for self care to safeguard yourself as you safeguard others. Equally, sometimes supporting survivors of sexual exploitation interrupts organised crime. In these situations, safeguarding her, could endanger you. In these situations, be sure to develop your own safety plan alongside hers.
Words by Rebecca Branch, co-ordinator of Beyond the Streets Door of Hope project working with women involved in street prostitution in East London. Special thanks to Elaine Davidson of HRSG Services for delivering this bespoke training in collaboration with Beyond the Streets.
Beyond the Streets host specialist training for staff and volunteers working with women in prostitution through the year. Find out about upcoming events here.
We want to see an end to sexual exploitation. We passionately believe that there is a life beyond prostitution for women and are committed to enabling women to find routes out. This isn’t an aspiration or a pipe dream, but a goal that has guided the work of Beyond for the Streets for almost two decades that is making a genuine impact on the lives of the women involved in prostitution. To present the challenges women are facing and the change we’re making we have produced this visual overview of our work.
We supported 260 women in 2015/16, and we estimate to have reached thousands more through the 98 practitioners we trained to deliver specialist support in the same year. Before we rush into our exciting plans for growth for this new financial year, we are pausing to celebrate the impact that we’ve made during this one- join us in the celebration.
Printed copies of our Impact Infographic are available on request, contact us if you’d like some hard copies to share with your friends, colleagues or wider community.
“We need all the ladders we can get” : New toolkit for exploring experiences of leaving prostitution.
It was August and we were sat in a small conference room in Nashville, Tennessee. A giant version of Snakes and Ladders lay in the middle of the room. Five women, all with previous involvement in prostitution and all employees of the social enterprise Thistle Farms,were sat around the board listening to me introduce my PhD study exploring social enterprise approaches adopted by faith-based projects supporting women to leave prostitution. As I explained how we were going to use the game to help us to identify what might act as snakes and as ladders for a woman who wants to leave prostitution, the women began to comment on the board.
“Not a lot of ladders are there”
They were right. 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. 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 and women in India who also took part in the 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.
This new toolkit is a result of their openness and desire to help other women, who like them, want to exit prostitution.
We need all the ladders we can get is designed to facilitate exploration of how individuals leave prostitution and uses the game of snakes and ladders to do this. It draws on my own 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 teams of outreach volunteers in the UK.
The toolkit provides examples of workshops you can run, along with a range of material to enable you to adapt the workshops to suit your own context. These include headline findings which emerged from the research, general findings drawn from a review of the literature on exiting prostitution, and quotes form the women who took part in the research.
It can be used by and with those seeking to leave prostitution or as a training tool in awareness raising contexts. So whether you’re personally looking to leave prostitution, are an organisation working with individuals involved in prostitution, or are simply seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the process of exiting prostitution then this resource is for you. Free copies of the resource are available for download here. Prefer to have the resource printed out and ready to be used in a workshop? Print copies can be ordered from Beyond the Streets and come at a cost of £25, plus postage.
In 2017, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, #BeBoldForChange calls us to help forge a better working world for all.
We at Beyond the Streets are working for an end to sexual exploitation in the UK, helping to forge a better world for the women who want to move away from selling sex and towards a future where they are treated with respect and dignity in the workplace.
It takes determination to take this path and daily we encounter women who show incredible strength, and resilience. It sometimes seems like the options are few but with someone alongside you to cheer you on and who knows but doesn’t judge, we’ve seen women make courageous decisions and take those determined steps. Here’s what one woman wrote after she had been talking with us at Beyond Support for a few months:
“When I contacted you I had made the decision that I would stop soon. I coped with it – the uncertainty and panic – I now know what it feels like to have a normal life, it is not so scary.
I’ve made progress by going to College and have got something to work towards and to get to know myself.
I have learnt a lot that I was braver than I thought I was and am also excited as have made a lot of bad decisions in the past and now know I can make good decisions.
I knew people judged me and thought that I was not intelligent . I am a human being. 90% of the reason (women become involved in prostitution) is the circumstances women find self in to make them do this work.
I had a lot of anger but the best thing you have done is encourage me to start having counselling which is really helping me longer term.
I am not fearful of the future as it’s something I did for me which is more important than other things in my past as it has made me a stronger person as I have confidence for the future.
Beyond Support has given me the confidence and taken away the fear so I can just be honest as I felt you understood and I didn’t have to explain or be judged.”
At Beyond the Streets, we find great job satisfaction in encountering some strong and admirable women. Happy International Women’s Day.
Words By Miriam Hargreaves, Support Worker and Clinical lead for Beyond Support – our free call-back support service for women exploited through prostitution.
When I first began volunteering with the Beyond The Streets team, a member of staff recommended that I read Rachel Lloyd’s memoir ‘Girls Like Us’. I made a note of it but was in no rush. Little did I anticipate the tour-de-force that would have me devouring the pages, only to eke out the last few chapters to stave off reaching the end. I was humbled; not just by Lloyd’s own harrowing story but her ability to incorporate compelling true narratives with hard facts and statistics about the sex trade. ‘Girls Like Us’ is the perfect balance of head and heart.
Interspersed are accounts of Lloyd’s own troubled childhood. From a somewhat idyllic start with a doting mother, life begins to spiral out of control when the man whom Rachel assumes is her father, comes back into their lives. An abusive and violent alcoholic, Lloyd’s mother also develops a drinking problem in order to cope with his tirades. Young Rachel’s relationship with her mum doesn’t improve with his eventual departure and becomes one characterised by neglect. The daughter assumes the role of guardian, dropping out of school to bring in an income and doing her best to intercept her mother’s attempts to kill herself.
By the time Rachel is living in Germany in her mid-late teens, she has already suffered violent sexual assault at the hands of different men. A perfect storm of straitened circumstances, no means of going back home and those all too willing to exploit a one-time-model’s looks, she lives through a terrifying experience at the mercy of drug-addled and paranoid boyfriends-turned-pimps. Tired of their murderous threats (Lloyd goes as far as making arrangements for her funeral and to inform her colleagues in advance of the likely perpetrator), the last of several suicide attempts proves -thank God- unsuccessful.
Surprised and grateful to still be alive, she wanders through the doors of a church on an American army base and begins the long, ongoing road to recovery. This will lead to her moving to the States and starting her own New York-based project, Girls Education and Mentoring Services (GEMS), supporting young women who have been sexually exploited. She also picks up Bachelors and Masters degrees along the way.
Lloyd boldly takes apart the glamorised images of the sex trade encouraged by some. The author challenges the myths and misperceptions around selling sex as well as the contempt for these girls and women by the authorities and the wider public. Along with others engaged in the battle against sexual exploitation, she is determined to change the lexicon around the subject. ‘Prostitution’ denotes an element of choice that does not reflect the limited agency and complex factors that are at play in the majority of cases, especially for minors. Lloyd is at pains to explain the strong emotional, psychological and even financial ties the girls feel towards those who have exploited them and which makes it even harder to leave for good.
Yet amazingly, the author achieves all this without being sanctimonious. The reader feels better informed rather than sermonised.
‘…One well-known advocate for the sex industry…was actually introduced to the life at the age of 14 after running away from an abusive home. She was a commercially sexually exploited child “trained”…from an early age. Yet because she is not black or Hispanic, because she was not sold on the dark corners of Hunts Point; because she appeared to be on the upper rungs of the “hierarchy” of the sex industry, that much-lauded fantasy world of the escort/call girl, her experience has never been framed as child exploitation or even questioned by the media and general public who continue to enjoy and support the idea that there are some forms of the sex industry that aren’t harmful, that women actually like it, that men’s “participation” in the industry is inevitable and may actually support the women’s career goals. It’s ideas like this that rationalise the continued buying and selling of women and girls…Just because an individual experience has not been difficult, painful or disempowering doesn’t make it true for millions of women and children around the world. The sex industry isn’t about choice; it’s about lack of choices. It’s critical for children and youth, and even many adult women within the sex industry, that we use language that frames it accurately…’ (page 219).
Lloyd’s memoir is essential reading, whether or not you feel a particular connection to the subject. This is a worldwide social epidemic and we would do well to understand its complexities; if nothing else to make us more alert to what might be going on under our noses.
Lloyd’s resilience makers her more than a survivor or even the fitting, but now clichéd, inspiration. She’s a walking miracle and whether or not they realise it, so are all those who have been down a similar path and lived to tell the tale, regardless of where they are in the recovery process. Even those yet to begin.
This blog was contributed by Tola Ositelu, a volunteer, supporter and friend of Beyond the Streets.
‘Girls Like Us’ by Rachel Lloyd. Harper Perennial Edition 2012, Harper Collins Publishers: New York. Buy the book here.
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. Just one reminder of this is the Cross Bones graveyard. The unmarked graves of the Cross Bones graveyard are those women who were not considered ‘worthy’ of a proper burial: they are the women whose lives and experiences were negated, shamed, and judged by society. The nameless burials remove the individuality and the humanity of those women. The women become ‘others’ – disconnected and different from ourselves and the rest of society.
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”
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.
- Tell your friends you say no to violence against women by downloading our social media action. Print the poster, add your name and share an image of yourself on your social media pages. See our Facebook page for inspiration from our supporters.
- Support our work providing routes out for women by making a donation here.
Bread. The stuff of life. Flatbread in the middle of the table, a panini oozing with cheese at lunch with friends, crispy, fluffy baguette, hot dogs at a bonfire party, a late-night piece of toast with a cup of tea whilst you chat over the day with someone you love. Bread is great for sharing.
It can also be a handy and sometimes sneaky in between snack. I can order a pizza, or pick up a kebab or grab a quick sandwich whenever I want. I can pay for it, sneak it in on the quiet when I’m peckish an, if I want, omit to mention that I snuck it in when I sit down to a meal with others.
We can all be good at sneaking treats in to comfort, entertain or ‘satisfy’ ourselves, without necessarily mentioning it to those who care about us. It can be less shameful, less telling, if we keep some treats to ourselves.
That’s ok if it’s just a piece of pizza.
The trouble is that around the world, people are ordering women for themselves as a ‘treat’ every day, sneaking them in when they are bit ‘peckish.’
It’s not ok that women are trapped, coerced, beaten, controlled and exploited just so someone can order them like a pizza.
It’s not ok, that’s why at Beyond Support we offer women the opportunity to find another route in life. I talk with women on the phone for whom it is so hard to find another way. Our team seeks to be there, whilst women explore their own hopes and dreams and whilst they explore the idea that their personhood, honour and body are worth more than to be ordered as a snack. We point them in the direction of support so that another way can become a sustainable reality.
I’m saying ‘NO!’ to bread this NOvember Campaign as a way of saying ‘NO!’ to sexual exploitation and violence against women. Agree that women shouldn’t be ordered like pizza? You can sponsor me here.
Words By Miriam Hargreaves, Support Worker and Clinical lead for Beyond Support – our free call-back support service for women exploited through prostitution.
Miriam is saying no as part of the #NOvemberCampaign, a month of awareness raising in the lead up to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25th November. Help us to create more routes of sexual exploitation for women by giving to the campaign.
The eldest daughter of a simple villager, Kiron grew up too fast. At 13 she was told by her father that it was time to get married. They were poor and often didn’t have enough to eat and so one less mouth to feed would be better for the family. He asked her if she liked any of the village boys and on her wedding day thought she was marrying a boy she knew. With head covered by her wedding sari at only 13, she looked into her bridegroom’s eyes and saw an older man leering back at her…not the young man she thought whe was marrying. As is the custom, she was taken to her new home where life was dictated by her new mother-in-law. She tried really hard to please her husband and his mother but it wasn’t easy.
A few months into her new life, she was told to go to the field that the family owned. There she saw a group of young men who quickly gathered round and she began to fell intimidated. One spoke up and simply said…your mother – in-law has sold you to us for the afternoon….Gang-raped, she hid until dark and then fled to her uncles home, too ashamed to go back to her own immediate family, let alone her husbands home. Her uncle took her in and cared for her. After a few days he sat down and talked with her and said it would be better for the family if she left the village as this had brought shame on them all. He promised to find her a job in the city of Kolkata where she could start a new life.
Her own uncle, whom she trusted, sold her into a brothel to begin her new life.
Trafficking must be stopped, young girls need to have a choice of freedom… your part in NOvember will help… it will tangibly give hope – a hope for a better future for those most vulnerable in the rural districts of West Bengal, India.
This NOvember you can say no to exploitation and contribute towards routes out for women by shopping online at Global Seesaw. All Global Seesaw products are made by women free from trafficking and exploitation in West Bengal. By using the code BTS2016 during November, you can get a 10% discount AND Beyond the Streets will get a 10% donation. It’s a Win Win Win!
Given up shopping for NOvember? You can make a donation directly to Beyond the Streets instead here.
Words by Annie Hilton, Co-Founder of Freeset (Global Seesaw being the UK trading name for Freeset) and friend of Beyond the Streets.
I am a person of privilege. Born to parents who wanted me and loved me, even in my worst days I have never known what it is to be excluded from that support. From childhood to adulthood, I have been loved, valued, nurtured, protected, empowered. I was told things were possible and was privileged to believe it. Enriched with the power of choices, I was privileged to be able to make them. My parents were poor but spiritually rich and emotionally wise. I never had to question my voice, my choice, or step aside because I am female. I was taught to understand the human condition, its virtues and vices, and not to become anyone’s slave. I am truly, deeply free.
I am incredibly privileged. Privileged to love and be loved by a man who has never done me violence, suppressed my speech, stifled my freedom, or sought to exploit me in any way, ever. He esteems our daughters, loves and prizes them, in the same way he does our son. He is not so much gender blind as comprehensively attentive. Would that all men were so.
But sadly it’s not the case. In homes, on streets, and in cultures around the world, maltreatment of women is accepted. Would that they had the support of their peers and families in rejecting violence against them. Would that they had the means to make a living, without others exploiting their bodies. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes the agreement and effort of whole societies to reject sexual exploitation and violence against women.
I don’t have a problem with privilege, at least not with privileges like mine. The only problem I can see is the idea that what I’ve described really are privileges. These are not life’s privileges, these are life’s achievables. The cost is making it true for you and the women in your life. The gain is changing futures for women around the world.
Words by Madi Simpson, a Writer, Speaker, Friend and Supporter of Beyond the Streets.