18 years of creating a better tomorrow for women.
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.
‘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.
We exist in a world, interrupted. A world inappropriately handled by our very own contextual experience. When we interact with the other there is an apparent gap between us. An invisible line, which is the proverbial us and them, materialises out of our unseen judgements. We silently walk pass those who might be different to us and subconsciously snub our noses at them. Or maybe you’re at ground zero and you’ve gotten used to your surroundings. If we are ever approached by someone to speak on their behalf we then, without being fully aware, filter all of their life experience through ours. There is a moment where their words get lost in our translation.
We need a better medium.
We need to bridge the violent gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’ that so apparently exists. We need to be translators of their story rather than interpreters of their story. As translators we make room for them to share their experience, we intentionally seek platforms for them to share, if they want. If we interpret their stories, it signifies that there is still a gap present between us and them – and this gap does not need to be present. Interpretation is a process where we take the stage and speak for someone else. It is the process where we take someone else’s life narrative and filter through our own understanding and present their experiences as our own. This is arguably condescending, because it assumes that the victim’s story cannot be uttered independently. Sometimes the stories of another can seem compelling enough to inspire others to help make the world a better place, however, we have to be purposely aware of our intentions when telling the story of another, because sometimes we can get so caught up in the story being about what we did to bring another’s ‘victory’ about. Let’s agree that ‘victims’ are not another notch on the belt of egos.
Sometimes by sharing the victim’s story and not allowing them to do so, empowers the woman to believe the same lie of invaluability that they may have experienced in their life. This is why it’s so important for us to pick up the gauntlet of translator. To be a translator means we are willing to advocate a safe space for the self-expression of each person we encounter and are able to help. This means we stand not in the gap for them, but stand in their corner fighting for them to fill the gap. This is an important distinction and why the role of interpreter is such an influentially dangerous role. Translators reject the notion of being a voice for the voiceless, as poetic as that sounds, as it fundamentally asserts the weakness of the victim and overlooks their resilience. Instead, translators embrace the role of “empower-er” and enabler.
The sex trade is a destructive thing. It devalues, dehumanises and irreparably demands women to become subservient to a corrupt system that tells them that they are essentially a sexual object. It is not just a dark and evil act, but also the new symbol these victims believe as true.
The danger in translating their stories for them is that the status of victimisation and disempowerment is then reinforced. What we need instead is a space where we intentionally seek out platforms for healing and where we make room for these beautiful people to share their stories of incomparable redemption and agony.I think now is the time we intentionally step back and allow space for the voices and stories to be heard, and yes, they need to be heard. If we don’t allow their voices to be heard, we are denying them their place of honour.
When we allow vocal space for narrative expression we then agree that not only is their voice and personality valuable but that each one has a pertinent role in transforming the landscape of what it means to not be a victim but a woman with a life-altering story that must be heard. These women need not be pitied but rather seen as person, a woman; a human being.
A contribution from George Elerick.
George is a cultural theorist, author and human responsibilities advocate. He is also the UK representative for the Network of Spiritual Progressives. He’s written a book entitled ‘Jesus Bootlegged’, check it out. You can find out more about him here: http:/theloverevolution.org.uk