Jun 25, 2020
Beyond the Streets works alongside women who are being sexually exploited and has decades of experience providing support to women as they work towards leaving prostitution behind them. Covid-19 has drastically altered the landscape and has changed both the support we can offer and the specific kinds of help that women need.
We offer phone support to women through our Beyond Support project, where women who are looking for routes out of exploitation can contact us directly. There have been less referrals during this time and when women have connected with us it has been harder to stay in contact as many of the women that we support are juggling family life and children. More worryingly, there is concern for women who are in abusive relationships, who are isolated and afraid to call because they are confined to the same house as their abusive partner. Where women can talk, we have been able to help with safety planning and emotional support which has been invaluable at this time.
Those we are connecting with are talking longer and at a deeper level as they contemplate more during lockdown and there becomes a greater awareness of underlying issues that they face. And yet it has been harder to help women connect with other services to move their situations forward – such as substance abuse help, or local housing support – so we have been acting as a ‘holding bay’ whilst face–to–face support is not available. For some women connecting with Beyond Support, lockdown has brought an opportunity to stop selling sex where they had felt trapped before. If they were already on a journey out of the sex industry it has given much needed space and chance to move away quicker, so our support has focused on helping these women move forwards into a new future.
Our Door of Hope project works with women directly in more face-to-face situations, which of course has been drastically curtailed to due to the risk of spreading the virus. Door of Hope Support Worker Abi Dickinson says ‘it is difficult because the human element has been lost during lockdown. Women often have a distrust of services and we pride ourselves on being a flexible and friendly presence in the community. Usually we build up trust over months, and women can talk about what’s on their mind over a coffee and a cake. During lockdown there’s only been so much we can do to build up trust together and uncertainty undermines our relationship building.’ One of the ways in which we have provided a different kind of help during lockdown is by providing food hampers to women who have had difficulty accessing food.
As restrictions ease, Beyond the Streets need to continue offering support and being flexible as to how best to navigate these changing and uncertain times alongside women who are experiencing increased challenges. We do not and cannot do this alone – will you join our community of support and help us respond to those facing additional vulnerability at this time? You can support this vital work by donating through our Aviva Community Fund crowdfunding page*, making a huge difference to women’s lives in this challenging period.
*UPDATE August 2020: Our Aviva crowdfunding has now ended, but you can still donate to us here at our Virgin Money Giving page.