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.
Victim to Survivor
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.
Even though it is February, I still have a Christmas card above my desk. It says ‘Thank you for the things you made happen and the doors you opened for me, I remain forever grateful’. This card wasn’t signed, however I knew who it was from because we had supported this woman to leave a violent man who was pimping her. It means a great deal; it means he hasn’t found her and that she is safe.
When this woman rang us she said that she had contacted a number of organisations and no one seemed to be able to help her to leave her situation; somehow she seemed to fall between the gaps of many organisations’ criteria. We were able to help her get to a safe place in another city, and to get access to the services she needed—all over the phone. She has done the rest and we haven’t heard from her until she sent this Christmas card.
Often in our work we are not able to tell stories about complete change that people would like to hear. But we are able to support women in prostitution in their journey and point of crisis. The Christmas card will remain above my desk all year round to remind me of the beauty of working together and the power of a phone call.