Prostitution

“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.


Care on different continents: The adventures of an Outreach Worker.

Abbie Gillgan is a volunteer outreach worker with Beyond the Streets Door of Hope project. Earlier this summer she took a break from outreach in east London to spend some time supporting Oasis India’s outreach teams in Mumbai. In this blog, she reflects on her time caring for women in similar situations on two very different continents.

The bright colours, breath taking smells and sticky heat of India as it neared the end of the dry season were a privilege to experience. But the greatest privilege I had during my short three week trip was the opportunity to spend time with and learn from the women and their children, who are working and living in some of the most desperate environments I have witnessed. Mumbai’s red light district, Kamatipur, is the largest in Asia. This informal settlement is a seemingly never-ending maze, lined with single-roomed shacks, in which the women ‘serve’ their customers as their children sleep under the bed. In this area, every woman sells sex and every man is a pimp or customer, giving the children who grow up here little hope or example of anything else.

Except there is glimmer of hope. Tucked away and unassuming, the humble premises of Oasis India in the heart of Kamatipur provides a safe space, schooling support and food for some of these children while their mothers work. Their outreach to the women in the area had elements of familiarity with what we do at Door of Hope, providing a non-judgemental ear, offering practical support and letting the women know that there can be a life for them beyond the streets.

Spending time in both the slums of Kamatipur and the mega-brothels of Grant Road, was a humbling and welcome reminder of our shared humanity. Despite my undeserved privilege, blindingly pale skin, and my total lack of Hindi, I was struck by the ease at which we could laugh and cry together. It bought to life Jo Cox’s mantra that ‘we have more in common than that which separates us’. While that may feel like a cliché, it’s nonetheless one that our Western society so desperately needs to embrace.

On one level I knew it already, but going to India definitely bought home to me that women experiencing sexual exploitation are not the passive victims that our media and our minds paint them to be. They are fierce, strong and are able to find joy within circumstances so unjust and beyond their control. These are traits I saw in the women in Kamatipur, traits I see in the women in Bethnal Green, and traits I want to see more of in me.

Abbie works for the NSPCC in their Child Safety Online team, which is allowing her to use some of the research she did for her Masters on the harms of online pornography to work to prevent young people from seeing it. She’s been volunteering with Door of Hope in East London for about 8 months, and is passionate about the need to do more to tackle the systemic causes of sexual exploitation.

Speak up for the fierce, strong and able women experiencing sexual exploitation in our communities by standing in solidarity with women this #NOvemberCamapignSign up.

 


Victim to Survivor

‘Amy’ is currently moving away from selling sex and has been talking with the Beyond Support team over the phone for several months. Recently, she had this to say:

I’ve never wallowed but in another sense I was holding onto that problem and that life. When you can realise that you are a victim of someone else’s behaviour, but you don’t have to be a victim to your own choices, that’s when you can cross over from becoming a victim and become a survivor. As harsh as it may sound, when the moment comes that you are able to make a choice, make one that is right for you. We cannot blame ourselves for what happened to us, but we can take control of our future. Don’t do something if you are not happy and if you are happy with your circumstances, then own it!

 Amy was groomed by an apparently loving boyfriend when she was still under 16. She was locked away so that those who had the key could use her to sell sex. She eventually managed to escape physically but her important teenage years of growing up and discovering who she is felt like they had been sold by someone else to many men. She worked hard and got a good education but for a long time, she couldn’t see how to stop doing what had been expected of her from a young age. It certainly wasn’t just the money. In fact, she told us she can see the industry changing and the money is not as good as it was. It certainly wasn’t a choice to continue because she liked the lifestyle, it was just what Amy knew and she was good at living her alter ego when she needed to. She couldn’t see that she had a choice.

A visit to the clinic alerted the nurses that she was frightened of examination. They referred her to a psychologist who tried to refer her to us alongside her sessions but Amy wasn’t ready. She stopped seeing the psychologist for a while but something had started to dislodge itself in her and eventually she went back and took our details. This time, she was starting to see the power of her own choice. She decided she wanted her ‘normality’ to change. When our conversations started, Amy was on a mission, she told the brothel management that she was cutting down her hours, then stopping altogether. We talked and she processed her feelings about this growing sense of power to change from victim to survivor.

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

Miriam Hargreaves tells Amy’s story. Miriam is a Support Worker and Clinical lead for Beyond Support – our free call-back support service for women exploited through prostitution.  

 


Vulnerability: courage to be imperfect.

At our Beyond the Streets Gathering in March, Elaine Storkey* navigated us through the concept of vulnerability drawing from biblical principles to show how love is only possible, only real when we, like God are willing to embrace our own vulnerability. Those who are vulnerable are those who are able to be wounded.

Having conducted hundreds of interviews and spent 6 years collecting data on people and vulnerability, Brené Brown*1 found that her interviewees divided themselves into 2 categories: those who have a sense of worthiness, love and belonging and those who struggle with it. What does this mean? She found it to mean that the first group were those who were able to embrace vulnerability, to believe that ‘what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.’ She calls them the ‘whole-hearted people.’ What does this whole-heartedness enable us to do then? She says it gives: first a sense of courage to be imperfect; secondly, true compassion which means we can be kind to ourselves first and then to others; thirdly, connection as a result of authenticity.

All just to end up looking ‘unprofessional?’ Doesn’t it mean that boundaries become blurred and we are left exposed and ineffective? Brown says that those who are most compassionate are the people who have the best boundaries. She suggests that compassion comes out of the ‘deeply held belief that we are inextricably linked together in love.’ It is being beside someone in their suffering, not looking at them and feeling sorry. We can only do that when we are clear what we can give and what we cannot. So, we can be really vulnerable when we know what is ok for us and what is not ok.

We get this by our own sense of love and belonging.

We are not defined by what we do for people but by who we are.

So, we offer people real respect, not fake walls; genuine feeling-with-someone empathy, not self-defining sympathy. We can feel and communicate deep love for a person without being crushed when they are not in a position to see beyond their own pain and circumstances. This is vulnerable love. It is also sustainable love.

Words By Miriam Hargreaves, Support Worker and Clinical lead for Beyond Support – our free call-back support service for women exploited through prostitution. 

*Dr Elaine Storkey – Author of Scars Across Humanity, Academic, Speaker, Broadcaster. Buy her book ‘Scars Across Humanity’ here.

*1 Brené Brown – Research Professor, Author, Public Speaker, Licensed Master Social Worker. Listen to her advice on Boundaries & Compassion here. 

 


“Those Girls”

One woman we provided support for, wanted to tell her story. This is the reflection of a woman who survived one of the recent high profile Child Sexual Exploitation cases. Originally published in May 2016, with the BBC’s three part series, ‘Three Girls’, putting Child Sexual Exploitation in the media spotlight again last week, we felt it appropriate to share this again.  It’s hard to hear at times but we need to hear from her and others, so we can never think of them as ‘Those Girls’.

‘Let me give you a summary, of things both said and implied by some Police officers, about girls caught up in sexual exploitation cases:
‘Nothing but trouble. Inconsistent. Not worth police time. Asking for it. Foolish.  Drunkards. Misleading. Prostitutes with too much make-up. Pests.’

How about vulnerable? Scared. Confused. Abused. Injured. Raped.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been one of those girls, and I want to set the record straight. It is vitally important that you, the police – protectors of society – take time to look at this serious issue from the point of view of the victims. Please believe sexual exploitation is something massive and understanding is an essential in tackling it. Girls like me understand it, because we have lived it. Some of us may never escape the far-reaching consequences of having suffered from this type of crime, and to discount our knowledge is to throw away a valuable asset. So please, I implore you, sit up and pay attention.

I’ll paint you a scene: You’ve been at work all day. You’re tired. You didn’t have time to take your lunch break. And sitting in front of you is a girl you’ve seen four times in the past week, as she’s phoned the station in trouble needing to be rescued from various situations. For the fourth time you’ve all but begged her to make a statement and she hasn’t cooperated. You’re frustrated. You’re stressed. You just want to go home and you cannot for the life of you understand why this girl is refusing to answer your most basic questions. At first you were eager to try and help but you’re now convinced she doesn’t want help, and you’re wondering if she’s doing this for attention, you know getting in the cars, knowing full well what those men are like. Why does she agree? Why does she have contact with the men who want to hurt her and then blow every opportunity to grass them up?

At first the girl was eager to get help too. You were the twenty fourth officer who has promised her all the protection in the world in return for a video interview. After meeting with her sixth officer, and the threats continuing and continuing she’s thinking ‘What’s the point?’ Interviews and statements aside the problem is just not going away and she’s still abducted off the streets by these guys trying to hurt her, and she’s followed home. Her home is attacked and there are incessant calls and texts and so, of course, she’s going to call the station, because although she’s lost all faith in you and your colleagues fixing the problem long term, she knows that getting in contact will get her a couple of hours of safety as she’s locked in an interrogation room. It saves her being locked in the bedroom any way.

The girl explained to you, early on, that she has no faith in the system. You told her it would be different this time and are annoyed that she won’t believe you. She’s annoyed that you won’t believe her, and trust in her experience of how things have been handled. To you she is a case that you can do nothing with. To her you are another person who just doesn’t understand. Just when she starts to think, ‘Maybe this time it will be different’, and she’s contemplating how to go through the trauma of explaining the whole horror story again from scratch you’ve given up and sent her on her way. She loved that one officer, the lady officer, who listened and made her feel safe; you then took the one lady officer off the case. I missed her, because I thought she cared. Next week there will be someone else working the case. Next week she’ll have faced three more life or death situations and those walls will have increased two fold AGAIN. Next week I will have to repeat myself over and over again, next week you will tell me again, I am confused, inconsistent and I don’t make sense. No maybe I don’t, but neither does why those men chose me.

I am not being dramatic for the sake of trying to keep your attention. Interviews are standard procedure for you, for us they really are trauma. You are asking us to relive moment by moment abuse that is still raw, and then repeat it over again as you pick it apart.

You want to get a picture of the crimes; we want nothing more than to get those pictures out of our heads. You want us to speak up, but we’ve spent the last couple of years months being conditioned to believe that we have no voice.

You told us to trust you, well so did our abusers. You said you were on our side, and that you’d take care of us – so did they. I know you are a police officer, but you are also a man and in the sick world I live in men equal people who put you down and use you up.

You said you would believe me, but you ask me so many questions I’m now struggling to believe myself. You said “Look at me, I’m an officer,” and I said “All I can see is your handcuffs, sir.”

They looked at me, stared at me; you pay close attention too, trying to figure out my body language. They took photographs of my body; you snap pictures of my wounds. They promised me the world, you promised me justice. Neither of you said promises can be broken.

They hurt me with their words as well as their fists. I expect it of them. But words from someone in authority cut deeper. They told me I was worthless, but I never truly felt it until you asked my friends and family if they thought I was a prostitute.

I found it hard to keep track of their names; I find it harder to keep track of your badge numbers.

You said that my story didn’t add up. Do you really believe it makes sense in my head either? This is not how I envisioned living my life. I don’t get a kick out of you asking me if I enjoy being victimised. You said I put myself at risk, I know that no matter what I’ve done the past few months has resulted in risk and I did not ask for it. I enjoyed the car ride, I enjoyed feeling special. I enjoyed the few vodkas, but no I didn’t ask to be raped or passed around like a rag doll, I didn’t ask for my clothes to be ripped off.

You criticise me for not being clear. I can barely think straight. If I tell you the truth, maybe you would think I am a slag or slut…maybe I would get into trouble, because they said it’s my fault.

You are annoyed with me for not giving you descriptions. I’m terrified because they said they’d kill me if I identified them. You say you can’t take my call, because you’re getting off at five. They tell me they’ll be round at mine for six. Their cars have loud music, to disorientate, your cars have sirens. They drove me around to different addresses and parks, anywhere they could have sex, I sat in the back of their car. I tried to forget.

You drive me around, asking me where it happened, telling me to point the places out, I sat in the back of your car, you wont let me forget.

They hurt me, they touched me in private parts, I tried to say no, you said the nurse needs swabs and its my choice, she touched me in those parts too, I tried to tell you I’m scared.

Ask me again why I didn’t give that statement.’

Through Beyond Support– the UK’s only call-back support service for women in the sex industry – we are delighted to have been able to stand alongside 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: support@beyondthestreets.org.uk. Please note that we are a call back service,  please l eave a message and we will contact you to arrange times that works for you.


Three Girls and Beyond Support: How we are supporting survivors of Child Sexual Exploitation.

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: support@beyondthestreets.org.uk. 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


Five things I learnt from Beyond the Streets Safeguarding Day.

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 GuideEmail 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.