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PEER: Exploring the lives of sex workers in Tyne and Wear The PEER Research Team: The GAP project, Northumbria University and Peer Researchers.

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Presentation on theme: "PEER: Exploring the lives of sex workers in Tyne and Wear The PEER Research Team: The GAP project, Northumbria University and Peer Researchers."— Presentation transcript:

1 PEER: Exploring the lives of sex workers in Tyne and Wear The PEER Research Team: The GAP project, Northumbria University and Peer Researchers

2 Outline Context Aims and Objectives Methodology Key Findings –Women engaged in opportunistic/survival sex work –Women engaged in escort work –Local key stakeholders Recommendations

3 Context Hidden for Survival (2007) The GAP project Trafficking and the male participant Language and content

4 Aim and Objectives AIM –Provide a robust evidence base about the experiences and service needs of women engaged in sex work in the northeast OBJECTIVES –Document the lives and experiences –Explore experiences of service provision –Consult stakeholders about knowledge and involvement in strategic decision-making –Identify local policy and practice recommendations.

5 Doing PEER research Research design - peer led project –Knowledge and experience –Networks and contacts –Similar experiences –Empowerment

6 The Interviews 36 peer-led interviews –20 women engaged in survival/opportunistic sex work –14 escorts –1 male escort and 1 trafficked participant 15 stakeholder interviews, 1 stakeholder focus group

7 Opportunistic Findings: Involvement in Sex Work 10 of 15 had engaged in opportunistic sex work only. 6 of 14 had qualifications. 6 or 13 regarded sex work as main sources of income. 16 of 19 experienced life event linked to entry into sex work. Entry to sex work: physical/sexual abuse, addiction, homelessness. 9 of 17 involved in sex work for five years or more. 15 of 16 women do not ‘enjoy’ sex work. 1 sometimes. 9 of 15 identified benefits to sex work (money and survival).

8 Opportunistic Findings: Keeping Safe and Seeing Clients 10 of 15 outlined strategies aimed at harm minimisation, evidencing levels of agency. 8 of 13 women had a working name and preferred using this. 5 of 10 felt the way they work makes them less unsafe. All 8 reported positive or neutral relationships with regular clients. 10 of 14 have had ‘strange’ requests from clients. 10 of 14 have had bad experiences with clients. 10 of 14 have had violent experiences with clients.

9 Opportunistic Findings: Health and Accessing Services All 19 women stated sex work had impacted negatively on their confidence and self-esteem. 14 of 16 said sex work had not impacted on physical health. 18 of 19 registered with a GP. 10 of 15 said sex work had not impacted on sexual health.16 of 17 access sexual health services. All 18 women reported mental health difficulties. Low levels of disclosure to services – fear of judgement. 12 of 14 have felt judged by a service provider. 10 of 12 had social services involvement.

10 Opportunistic Findings: Relationships, Addictions, Homelessness 13 of 16 described childhood in negative (n=9) or neutral (n=4) terms. 9 of 12 experienced significant (negative) life event as a child. 5 of 11 reported to have friends. Just 3 of 9 close to family. 13 of 15 women victims of domestic violence. 15 of 16 had experienced problematic drug use. 9 of 11 were accessing drug treatment. 15 of 19 had experienced homelessness. 9 of 10 reported link between sex work and homelessness. 8 living in homeless accommodation at point of interview.

11 Opportunistic Findings: Criminal Justice All 15 women had a criminal record. 11 of 14 women had been to prison. Only 4 of 8 women reported receiving help upon leaving prison.

12 Escort Findings: Demographics and Working as an Escort 13 of 14 experiences of other types of work. Majority (n=8) entered after being introduced by a friend. Evidence of agency and independent work. 6 of 12 run as a business. 5 of 12 pay tax. 12 of 12 enjoy escort work. 14 of 14 identified benefits. 12 of 12 identified drawbacks. One case problematic drugs use. One instance of housing problems.

13 Escort Findings: Keeping Safe and Seeing Clients 10 of 12 believe they work safely. Strategies for keeping safe and minimising risk evident, some underlying worries. Described good clients and bad clients. All 9 described positive relationships with regular clients. 5 of 14 had experienced a violent client.

14 Escort Findings: Confidence and Emotional Impacts 8 of 10 reported positive impact on confidence. 10 of 11 felt there to be stigma around escorting. 8 managed stigma by keeping work a secret. 6 of 12 felt an emotional impact from escort work.

15 Escort Findings: Health and Accessing Services 12 of 12 condoms used consistently. 11 of 11 reported no negative impacts on sexual health. 9 of 11 regularly access sexual health services. 7 of 7 find this helpful. Physical health: 4 no impact, 2 positive impact, 6 negative impact. All 13 registered with a GP. 5 of 12 suggested improvements to mainstream health services. 7 of 13 identified mental health issues.

16 Escort Findings: Relationships and Family 8 of 11 had experienced domestic violence. 7 of 11 reported positive childhoods, 4 negative childhoods. 12 of 12 reported positive social networks. 8 of 12 women had children. –Impacts on motherhood.

17 Escorting and Criminal Justice 5 of 10 understand the law. 5 of 10 believe the police have a negative perception or attitude towards escorts. 3 of 10 have contacted the police in relation to escorting. 6 of 11 would contact the police if they had to. 3 of 12 women have a criminal record - 1 prostitution related offence.

18 Stakeholder Findings Mixed levels of knowledge and awareness reported – –Particularly limited knowledge of local escort market. The extent to which sex work features in the work of stakeholders varied significantly. –More prevalent feature among the work of operational stakeholders. –Levels of exposure to sex work related issues varied significantly across services.

19 Stakeholder Findings Service users not routinely asked about involvement in sex work when accessing services. Voluntary disclosure common. Stakeholders stressed importance of a non-judgemental response to disclosure and referral to GAP. Services reported to adopt a holistic, multi-agency approach to addressing the needs of service users. Identified barriers to engagement. Stakeholders stressed the importance of GAP in facilitating trusting relationships with women.

20 Stakeholder Findings Levels of staff confidence to engage in sex work discussions vary across services. Further training would be useful. Sex work knowledge within services has improved over time. Few services actively seek to engage with sex workers. Few have specific policies and procedures linked to sex work. Stakeholders supportive of the idea of a local sex work strategy. Gold standard service: Non-judgemental, holistic support.

21 Recommendations The provision of training Dedicated Liaison Officers Dedicated escort service Greater partnership working between criminal justice agencies, homelessness services and women’s projects Greater partnership working between social services and specialist sex work projects Work around mental health and domestic violence Additional specialist sex work projects Continuation funding for the GAP project Local sex work strategy

22 Thank you Any questions? Contact details: – – –

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