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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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.
As we gather to imagine a world where women are free from sexual exploitation, what would it look like for you in your communities for women to thrive and how can we work collaboratively to make this happen?
Beyond the Streets is hosting a gathering for those working with women exploited through prostitution.
The aim of the Gathering is to provide space to wrestle with the issues that women face; the challenges for those who work with them and to look at how we can be more effective in seeing women exit prostitution and find freedom to follow their dreams. We want to look at how we can work and learn together as we bring a rich mix of experience from towns and cities across the UK. We will be joined by Dr Elaine Storkey who will provide input and journey with us over the weekend.
17th-19th March 2017
Hothorpe Hall, Leicestershire
Beyond the Streets are looking to recruit new volunteers to join the Door of Hope outreach team, working directly with women on the streets of Tower Hamlets.
Beyond the Streets are looking to recruit new volunteers to join the Door of Hope outreach team, working directly with women on the streets of Tower Hamlets.
We are looking for volunteers with:
• A calling for reaching out to women involved in/affected by prostitution.
• Empathy, compassion and a non-judgemental approach.
• An ability to build trusting relationships whilst maintaining personal boundaries.
To find out more about Door of Hope and what the role of outreach volunteer involves please read the Information Pack below before completing the Application Pack below.
If this sounds like the opportunity for you, then we’d love to hear from you. Please read through the Volunteer information pack, then complete the accompanying application form and email it to Beyond the Streets by 9am on 9th January 2017 – email@example.com. If you would like more information before applying please email Rebecca.
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.
|Our vision is to see a world free from sexual exploitation. Alongside our direct work with women, we are working to change the context of the world we live in – challenging stigma and raising awareness of the wider issue of sexual exploitation. The NOvember Campaign is an opportunity to join in saying NO to sexual exploitation by saying no to something for the month of November, and donating the money saved. The campaign also provides opportunities for people to share about their passion in this area, especially as we remember the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th.
Recently, we’ve been inspired by the words of Elaine Storkey, who reminded us “The extent of violence against women cannot be underestimated, nor can its consequences. The impact ripples through every area of society; it affects women, children, families, neighbourhoods, men, lawmakers, law enforcers, health providers and so many of our social institutions. It does indeed leave scars on the face of humanity”.
We begin this November painfully aware of the pandemic of violence against women, but equally more determined than ever to speak out against it. The NOvember Campaign gives voice to this, gathering the voices of our supporters and friends to say a united no to sexual exploitation and violence against women. Would you consider making a gift to Beyond the Streets to support our work providing routes out for women this NOvember campaign? You can contribute to the campaign here.
You can also get involved by making some noise on social media, we’ve uploaded a social media action card to our website, print the poster and post a picture to let your followers know that you say no! Remember to use the #NOvemberCampaign hashtag!
We leave you with the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. Don’t be silent, say no with us.
This NOvember Campaign, Beyond the Streets are hoping to raise £5000.00 to contribute to our work providing routes out of exploitation for women. You can help us reach our target by making a gift here.
Early on Thursday morning, our Door of Hope Project began an exciting new chapter with the launch of early morning outreach on the streets of Tower Hamlets, London. Door of Hope exists to offer hope, support and routes out of prostitution for women. As we develop, we are keen to ensure that our activities are intuitive to the context and community we seek to serve. We don’t want to immediately set off on the path we are used to taking without regularly reassessing against the golden question; is this path the right one for the women we journey with?
Over the last few months we have been asking this question of our outreach activities in dialogue with the local council, police and the women we work with. For twenty years a team has walked the streets of Tower Hamlets, armed with hot chocolate, sexual health packs, a friendly face and a listening ear. Increasingly we’ve noticed that between the hours of 1-2am, as our team are preparing to finish outreach for the evening the women we work with are only just beginning their night on the streets. We know that safety and support Door of Hope offers women is invaluable for the women we work with. If our support is appreciated at the beginning of the night, how much more valuable would it be towards the end, after hours exposed to the elements and the distressing realities of selling sex on the streets? Informed by these realities and inspired by conversations we’ve had with the women we work with, we made the decision to begin with one to two early morning outreach sessions a month, in addition to our regular evening outreach.
Last week, we were delighted to launch early morning outreach in Tower Hamlets. At 5.00am our team began their first early morning shift, carrying Door of Hope’s twenty year legacy into an exciting new season. Reflecting on these new beginnings, Door of Hope’s Co-ordinator Rebecca told us, “We have spent the last few months re-examining the activities of Door of Hope, looking at what we do and why we do it. We want to keep our work in tune with women’s lives, shaping our activities according to their needs and requests. Launching early morning outreach is us tuning into the lives of the women we exist support, ensuring our activities compliment the realities of their lives. If that means waking up at 4am, that’s what we’re going to do…”
The Door of Hope is a project run by Beyond the Streets in the east end of London. To hear more about the work of Door of Hope, you can visit the Door of Hope website here or you can sign up to the Beyond the Streets newsletter which regularly features updates.
‘Professional excellence’ is a term often used within Beyond the Streets – a value that we aren’t just driven by compassion and a desire to see real change happen, but we build healthy, sustainable and effective projects that are growing and long lasting.
Safeguarding has become an increasingly intentional focus within Beyond the Streets and the network over the last couple of years, within our policies, training and recruitment of our staff and volunteers.
In May, Beyond the Streets hosted our annual Safeguarding Day for projects working with women in prostitution and we welcomed 27 guests from 17 different projects, in 12 different towns and cities around the UK. Elaine Davidson from HRSG Services came to train and facilitate with us, as we explored what it looks like to increase our awareness of Safeguarding in this sector.
We have been contacted by many projects who have told us they feel more confident as a result of the Safeguarding training. We know that this will lead to women and their children being safer.
A key theme for the day was the importance of creating an ’embedded culture’, rather than just creating more policies and procedures. We have seen one specific incident in the last 2 weeks, where the training has been invaluable.
One participant said, “I learnt loads, but have also got an action plan on how to move my project forward. Great stuff, thanks!”
We are planning another event for next year – dates to be announced.