What Advocacy Looks Like at Beyond Support

May 22, 2023

This blog was written by a Women’s Support Worker who works within our UK-wide Beyond Support service team:

Beyond the streets have helped me when ‘I needed someone to have a voice for me’.

~Woman reviewing her Beyond Support Journey

“This quote really sums up how much advocacy is part of my job as a Woman’s Support Worker. Lots of the women we journey alongside have negative experiences of services, feel unheard, disempowered, and judged.”

They are often wary of or intimidated by professionals and due to past experiences are expectant of negative reactions from them if they disclose that they have sold sex. They often feel they have been failed or let down by services and so have no confidence or motivation to approach or engage with them. 

Finding, navigating, and contacting services is not always intuitive and can be overwhelming.

Women also tell us that they find it difficult to tell their stories to new people. They fear shame, rejection and judgment and worry about people’s preconceived ideas about women who sell sex.

They will often tell us that they are worried about what people will think of them and that people will assume that because they sell sex they are addicted to substances, uneducated, and not able to care for their children.

As we build relationships with them and they begin to trust us, they will ask us to tell their story on their behalf. This isn’t to disempower them; it is to allow their voices and stories to be heard in what they feel is a safe way. It is quite common for them to ask us to talk to professionals or services on their behalf to ‘test the waters’ and then reassure them that they will not be judged or looked down on.

Women also tell us that it can take time and enormous courage for them to trust us enough to tell us about their situations and experiences.

To be asked by multiple professionals to share this information immediately over and over again in order to access each service, required to meet their needs, can be too much for them and becomes a barrier to engagement. We’re able to act on behalf of them, which removes this barrier.

So many women just need support from someone to express their wishes and views and to help them to stand up for their rights and get their voices heard. To make sure they are understood, valued, and reassured that they matter and are worthy of support.

We don’t believe in ‘rescue’; they’re the expert in their own life. We always make sure women understand their rights and options and that they are involved in decisions about their lives. We work to help those that need it increase their confidence so they can identify their own needs and choose their own journeys. The need for advocacy varies from case to case.

Some women may initially need a lot of advocacy, others need advocacy at times when specific issues arise, and others need regular ongoing and consistent support. Feelings of fear (around rejection), being overwhelmed, ashamed, and not knowing where to start to try and help themselves is exasperated when they’re experiencing mental health difficulties or are living with learning needs.

Post Covid, a lot of agencies have continued to hold meetings online. When they were in person we weren’t able to attend due to our remote model, but the move to a digital format has meant that we can now attend many more meetings to advocate on behalf of women, including Children’s Services meetings, multi-agency and other professionals’ meetings, Complex Adults Risk Management meetings, and Adult Safeguarding Meetings.” 

If you would like to learn more about working alongside women who have sold, or are selling sex, visit our training page to see upcoming online sessions delivered by staff at Beyond the Streets, informed by our research and 25+ years working within this theme.