Prostitutes suffer more behind closed doors

Sarah Benson, CEO of Ruhama

Indoor prostitution is just as dangerous as outdoor sex work and women operating behind closed doors suffer longer and more violent sex attacks and are under the control of organised crime gangs.

The details were heard at a conference on prostitution.

Ruhama, a frontline agency working in the area, said a record number of women accessed its services last year. It dealt with women of 32 nationalities, reflecting the dominance of migrant women in the indoor trade.

Its report for 2012 said the view that street prostitution was more dangerous that the indoor trade was “not necessarily true” and that indoor prostitutes had additional problems to deal with, including:

* Constant state of tension of something “going wrong”, such as buyers pushing for sex acts the prostitutes don’t want to do, direct assaults, and, for Irish women, a fear of knowing somebody who might come through the door;

* Women have been raped, robbed, and assaulted behind closed doors because they could not be heard;

* Organised gangs control the indoor sex trade and women are fearful of reporting to gardaí abuse perpetrated on them by pimps;

* Women can suffer significant mental and emotional problems by “splitting” their personality between who they are and who the client wants them to be;

* While women on the street say they are able to keep their clothes on, have quick engagements with buyers, and only engage in “straight” sex acts, women working indoors say they have to entertain men for longer, are more exposed, and fulfil demands for any sex act, often very rough;

* Women working outdoors are better able to assess a risk posed by prospective buyers than those indoors.

The report said that of the 258 women Ruhama supported, it engaged in case work with 170. Some 71 of these were victims of sex trafficking, coming from 32 countries — with Nigeria accounting for 42 cases.

“This island remains a destination for traffickers, pimps and procurers from all corners of the globe,” said Sarah Benson, the organisation’s CEO.

“The bulk of the prostitution in Ireland is connected with organised criminality. For the women and girls we work with — far from home, isolated, and often highly controlled or literally coerced through trafficking, it is a dangerous and damaging experience. It is also beyond doubt that prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation are inextricably linked.”

Dublin researcher Ruth Breslin, who carried out a major piece of research for the EAVES Women’s Project in England, said that of the 114 women she surveyed in England, 72% had suffered a history of childhood violence and 32% entered prostitution before the age of 18.

In addition, 74% had health problems; 59% had drug/alcohol problems; 40% were compelled to be a prostitute; 86% had suffered violence from the work; 51% suffered partner violence; and 44% experienced violence from pimps.

* Contact Ruhama on 01 8360292 or see ruhama.ie

2012 report

* 258 women sought support from Ruhama in 2012

* 170 engaged in casework

* 72 women working on the street were accessed through outreach

* 88 women engaged with education and development (up 18% on 2011)

* 33 women availed of Ruhama’s resettlement service


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