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These things make women more vulnerable to infections. Condoms don’t protect them from any of it. Financial or other pressures meant that most of the women had to continue in prostitution even when they were in severe physical pain.
So let’s look at that category of “injuries deliberately inflicted by punters.”
In this study women reported experiencing a staggering amount of physical violence from punters. Nearly two thirds had been threatened with a weapon, nearly three quarters had been physically assaulted, and more than half had been raped (which, in this context, means unwanted sex for which they weren’t paid). Of those who’d been raped, nearly 60% had been raped six or more times.
Other studies have found similar results and the testimony of survivors tells the same story.
Brenda Myers-Powell who was in prostitution for 25 years, was shot five times, stabbed more than 13 times, was beaten unconscious several times, had her arm and nose broken, and two teeth knocked out.
Prostituted women also have an increased likelihood of being murdered. Mostly by punters and pimps.
This figure shows the numbers (as at April 2016) of known recorded murders of prostituted women over differing time periods in four EU countries, three of which (Germany, Spain and The Netherlands) have some form of legalised prostitution, and one, Sweden, has the Nordic Model.
While the Nordic Model doesn’t make prostitution safe – because nothing can – it does reduce the amount that takes place, and therefore the number of new women being drawn into it; and it provides genuine routes out for those already involved. If we look at the murder statistics in these different countries, we can see strong evidence that this approach works.
But many murders of prostituted women go unreported.
Rebecca Mott, a survivor of indoor prostitution and campaigner for the Nordic Model says:
“It’s normal that the bodies of prostituted women and girls are made to disappear by the sex trade profiteers. They get away with it because they assume no-one cares about their safety. The prostituted are made to be isolated, and their disappearances often go unreported.”
But it’s not just murder. Women in prostitution have a very high mortality rate. One study in Canada estimated it to be 40 times higher than women in the general population. Women in indoor prostitution in particular have a very high rate of suicide. In one study, 75% of women in escort prostitution had attempted it.
This should not surprise us, because in study after study, most women say they want to leave prostitution but have no other options for survival. In one study, 89% of the women interviewed said this.
Most of the time, women continue because of an absence of viable alternatives. Let’s look at why it’s so hard to get out. Common factors include: having no training or qualifications, being dependent on drugs or alcohol, being coerced by a “boyfriend” or pimp, having debts, and a criminal record.
Much unskilled women’s work requires a criminal record check. A criminal record therefore rules out much potential work. This is one reason we’re not just campaigning for the decriminalisation of those in prostitution, but also for the removal of their criminal records for soliciting, and for high quality services that provide a genuine route out. And an end to the structural inequality that leaves so many women in dire poverty.
And when women do manage to get out, the effects continue. Angel, a survivor of prostitution, says:
“I’m still dealing with the aftermath of being in prostitution. I suffer nightmares, flashbacks and am triggered by numerous things. I find it difficult to trust people, particularly men, and still struggle massively around sex. I still dissociate, and feel like I split off from myself. I still define myself by these experiences and it tears me apart when programmes like, ‘Diary of a call girl’ are on TV. It makes me feel hopeless and utterly and wretchedly alone, drowned out by the vast noise of the sex industry and its all-powerful lobbying.”
So there we have it. For the women involved, prostitution brings a very high risk of long-term, serious, psychological and physical health problems, suicidal despair, being beaten up, raped, and even murdered. No other occupation brings such high risks.
It is time for the perpetrators – the pimps and punters – to be held to account for this mayhem they cause.
So who are the punters?
They’re men of all ages, races, religions, and backgrounds. They’re rich and they’re poor. No one knows exactly how many men do it. Estimates vary from about 10% to about 80% of the adult male population.
To give a flavour of their attitudes we’ll look at a couple of quotes from punter forums where they can enter reviews of the women they buy.
“She was just like a piece of meat… I thought I’ve paid so I better fuck her hard! I decided to put the legs on my shoulders and I was pumping hard!”
Notice how he refers to her legs as if they’re disembodied.
Here’s another one:
“When I asked about anal I was told, not available on first meeting! Well I ain’t starting a relationship with you, love. I just want to fuck you up the arse!”
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