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.
- Download your copy of the resource here.
- Request a printed copy of the resource by email. Printed copies of the resource come at a cost of £25, plus postage.
- Read Dr Katie Thorlby’s doctoral research which inspired the resource Global Perspectives on Sustainable Exit from Prostitution.
Beyond the Streets Door of Hope project runs the Case Management Service for women involved in on-street prostitution in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. This offers women a series of one to one meetings with one of our case managers, supporting women to plan and achieve their goals and, if they’d like to, take steps away from prostitution.
We can support with:
- Substance Misuse
- Sexual Health
- GP registration
- Mental Health
- Training and Employment
- Sexual Violence
- Domestic Violence
We take a woman-centred approach, meaning that we recognise you as the expert of your own experiences and support and encourage you to make the choices that are right for you. We do not put ourselves in a position of power over you, but hope to empower you to make your own decisions. We focus on your strengths, and help create a space where you can think and plan for different possibilities for you future.
If you are involved in on-street prostitution in Tower Hamlets and think you would like to be supported in this way, with any of the issues above – or if know a woman who would – the service can be accessed by completing this Referral Form and submitting it by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
By filling in this form you are requesting support and access to the Case Management Service. We will not pass on your details to anyone without your consent. If you have any questions, or need support completing the form contact us on 0300 3020762.
What will happen next?
- Every Monday we have a meeting and we will allocate a named worker who will contact you.
- Our worker will contact you to find out how we can support you and work out next steps.
- We run a weekly Drop in from 10.30am – 12.30pm on Tuesdays at Providence Row, you can access the Case Management Service by visiting us there.
The Tower Hamlets’ Prostitution Partnership (THPP) is a multi-agency group meeting convened by Beyond the Streets to hold MARAC-style case management meetings where professionals from membership agencies can share information about women involved in street based prostitution to provide a holistic support package for her. The aim of the case management meeting is to tackle the harm faced by women involved in prostitution by addressing their safety and support needs. This is alongside a long-term view of enabling those affected to safely exit prostitution.
- THPP meetings are held on the first Friday of each months, although cases need to be referred to the THPP Co-ordinator by email a minimum of five days before the meeting to be heard.
- We advise you consult the referral criteria included in the referral form to make sure your client meets the criteria.
- To make a referral email a completed referral form, along with a information sharing consent form to Beyond the Streets.
- If, having read the guidance in the Operating Protocol below, you have any questions contact the THPP Co-ordinator by email.
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 need all the ladders we can get” : Using Snakes and Ladders as a tool for exploring experiences of leaving prostitution.
In 2015 Beyond the Streets Trustee, Dr Katie Thorlby, completed her Phd thesis Global Perspectives on Sustainable Exit from Prostitution. In this thesis she explored the process of exiting prostitution, based on research she carried out with social enterprises supporting women to leave prostitution in India and the US. This pioneering resource ‘We need all the ladders we can get’ is the fruit of her research, a practical tool that enables women, and those working with them, to explore what helps and hinders women as they work towards a sustainable exit from prostitution.
The resource is designed to facilitate exploration of how individuals leave prostitution and uses the game of snakes and ladders to do this. The resource can be used by support organisations working with those involved in prostitution; it can be used by individuals who themselves are seeking to leave prostitution and want to share understandings of the challenges faced and the sources of support that have been beneficial; and it can be used as an educational or training tool with volunteers, service delivery staff or students seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the process of exiting prostitution.
The resource can be used to explore an individual’s personal circumstances or it can be used in a more generic manner, without being related specifically to personal experience.
It comes with examples on how to run workshops using the tool as well as a range of additional material to allow you to tailor the workshops to your own contexts, including headline findings from the PhD and quotes from the women who took part in the research.
Get your copy of We need all the ladders we can get.
♦ Download your copy of the resource here.
♦ Request a printed copy of the resource by email. Printed copies of the resource come at a cost of £25, plus postage.
♦ Read the doctoral research which inspired the resource Global Perspectives on Sustainable Exit from Prostitution.
♦ Explore further training. Beyond the Streets develop and equip projects and professionals across the UK by offering specialist training that enable professionals to better support women involved in prostitution. Contact us if your organisation would like us to deliver training based on this resource.
Katie Thorlby (PhD Durham) joined the Beyond the Streets board of trustees in January 2010 after carrying out an eleven month internship with the charity. She has previously volunteered at Door of Hope, working with women involved in street prostitution in East London. In 2015 she completed her doctoral research exploring social enterprise approaches adopted by faith-based projects supporting women to leave prostitution. Katie currently works as a researcher in the UK charity sector
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.
This Guide is for local community organisations working with those in prostitution by offering support and routes out. With nearly 20 years experience in the sector, and with collective input from established projects, we want to save you time and energy so that you can work more effectively with those affected by prostitution in the UK. New Edition – May 2016
Please feel free to download, print and share. If you want a laminated version, please do drop us an email.
Posted by Beyond The Streets on 20/10/2015 at 01:23 PM
Prostitution is extensively researched yet despite the amount of research that has been carried out there has, until recently, been little focus on how people leave prostitution. The recently published PhD thesis of Katie Thorlby contributes to closing this gap in our knowledge.
Over the course of the last 3 ½ years, Katie, a trustee of Beyond the Streets, has been carrying out a PhD investigating the process of exiting prostitution through an exploration of faith-based projects that support women to leave prostitution through the operation of social enterprises. The research is based on data from an internet mapping study and ethnographic research with two case studies, a project in India and a project in the US, both of which are running social enterprises. The thesis examines the nature of such projects; how they support women to exit prostitution; how the social enterprise models employed by these projects operate; the role of faith in the nature and work of such projects; and the experiences of the women engaging with these projects. You can read the full thesis here: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/11072/
Resources for practitioners based on the findings of the research are currently being developed and will be made available in the coming months.
Posted by Beyond The Streets on 21/07/2015 at 12:02 PM
This guideline has been created with the intention that it would encourage those working with vulnerable and exploited people to think through how they ‘use’ people’s stories and how they communicate these stories to others in an ethical and sensitive manner, always portraying the people they work with in a dignified and respectful manner.
The organisations and institutions that work with the exploited and the vulnerable can often act as a window between ‘mainstream’ society and the people they work with.
Windows can often distort reality or create a different picture depending on what glass is put into the frame, how the structure of the window is created and what the window chooses to point towards. Similarly organisations can have a similar influence and consequently need to take the time to consider carefully the people they represent, their feelings and emotions about a situation, and the impact of how the organisation chooses to represent this group of people.