HELLO

#NOvemberCampaign : Comfort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 


#NOvemberCampaign : Comfort

Birthday’s creep up on you don’t they? We keep on keeping on and the next thing we know we’re another year older.

We at Beyond the Streets are celebrating a significant birthday today, our eighteenth birthday! Our work creating routes of Prostitution for women has grown significantly in the last few years (read about the impact we’re making here) and it would be easy to bypass this significant day and busy ourselves with the demands of our growing projects. Instead, we are stopping to celebrate this milestone and inviting you to join us in the celebration.

In our eighteen years we’ve learnt the skills we need to stand strong in this sector, undergone a teenage growth spurt and are now ready to mature into adulthood. Significant birthdays are always a time of reflection, we are looking to the future and asking ourselves where we want to be by the time we are 30. How do we want to see support for women increased? What attitudes need to be challenged? How can we see less women affected by sexual exploitation in the future?

We go forward clear on our part to play in providing routes out of prostitution for women. We are working for a better tomorrow for women and we need your help to build the next chapter. Give an 18th birthday gift to Beyond the Streets to help us build the next stage of our work.

We invite you to make an 18th Birthday gift of £1.80, £18 or £180 to see our work into adulthood- even better, commit to giving regularly to partner with us as we build a better tomorrow for women.

Alternatively, mark this milestone with us by joining in the #NOvemberCampaign – through which we aim to raise £18,000 to secure the role of Door or Hope’s part time outreach worker for a year.

Why does Door of Hope need my support?

In 2016/17 Door of Hope supported over 100 Women. The women Door of Hope supports are drawn into prostitution as a result of complex vulnerabilities and as a last resort response to insurmountable struggles. Our work is a crucial first step in the process towards helping those experiencing multiple disadvantages to find freedom from the issues they face and lasting routes out of prostitution– the support raised by the #NOvemberCampaign will secure the role of our part time outreach worker for a year. Ensuring outreach – a lifeline to hidden women – can continue. Make a gift today. 

Want to join the celebration? Invitations to partner with us:

  1. Make an 18th Birthday gift to Beyond the Streets to create a better tomorrow for women. Give a birthday gift today.
  2. Give regularly to build a better tomorrow. 
  3. Take part in the #NOvemberCampaign saying no to something you love to stand in solidarity with women. Sign up.

18 years of creating a better tomorrow for women.

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


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

One woman we provided support for, wanted to tell her story wrote this blog. 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 and 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 of 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.’