#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.
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:
- Make an 18th Birthday gift to Beyond the Streets to create a better tomorrow for women. Give a birthday gift today.
- Give regularly to build a better tomorrow.
- 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: 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
Three Girls and Beyond Support: How we are supporting survivors of Child Sexual Exploitation.
‘Nothing but trouble, Inconsistent, Not worth police time, Asking for it, Foolish, Drunkards, Misleading, Prostitutes with too much make-up, Pests.’
I found it hard to keep track of their names; I find it harder to keep track of your badge numbers.