Prostitution and sex work: nature and prevalence in England and Wales (report)

University of Bristol, commissioned by the Home Office and the Office of the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, October 2019

The University of Bristol was commissioned by the Home Office and the Office of the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner to look in to the current ‘nature’ and ‘prevalence’ of prostitution in England and Wales, involving adults aged 18 or over. The research was carried out between May 2018 and June 2019.  We were not asked to report on policy or law.  Drawing on the literature and initial findings, we used the following definition:

Prostitution and/or sex work constitutes the provision of sexual or erotic acts or sexual intimacy in exchange for payment or other benefit or need.

Following a systematic search of the existing national and international evidence base, including a review of previous prevalence studies, we sought views, data and personal experiences through a 6-month public online survey, yielding almost 1200 often detailed responses with over 500 from those currently or formerly involved in selling sexual services.  We also worked through NGOs and support services to identify individuals unlikely to respond to online surveys. We completed follow up in-depth email interviews with 42 individuals.  We invited 155 organisations, collectives and individuals to consult on our draft finding at four regional meetings in early 2019.

Given methodological and ethical constraints, we recognise two groups whose voices are under-represented or absent within this report: (1) Migrant sex workers; (2) British and non-British individuals who are/were forcibly coerced, who are/were trafficked, who are/were sexually exploited and/or who are traumatised in relation to their experience.

In terms of ‘prevalence’, currently in England and Wales there is no source of data which allows for the production of representative population estimates for this group.  Stigma, the private and hidden nature of the sex industry, complex engagement patterns and definitions of activities mean that estimating prevalence is challenging.  Producing an accurate estimate would require studies to follow the guidance and recommendations on data collection jointly produced by the UNAIDS and World Health Organisation (WHO) (2010) and/or to use statistically representative samples.  Focused and small-scale prevalence studies are also more likely to be accurate.  The report provides guidance on such work.

In terms of ‘nature’, overall, we found that the way that sex is sold in England and Wales today is both complex and diverse.  It is common for individuals to move between settings and services, for safety or to maintain income, and to engage full-time, part-time (sometimes alongside other paid work or study), intermittently or casually.  Looking across our data, we identified and structured our commentary around the following:

Cross-cutting themes

Identifying sex work, identifying as a sex worker

·         Social identities, inequalities and routes in

·         Patterns of engagement and moving between settings/services

·         Advertising, payment and third parties

·         Risk, harm and managing safety

·         Buyers and buying

 Settings and services

·         Bar-based sex work and hostess bars

·         BDSM, kink and fetish

·         Brothels, parlours, saunas

·         Erotic and exotic dance

·         Erotic massage

·         Escort: independent

·         Escort: agency

·         Pornography, glamour, erotica

·         Sex parties

·         Street and outdoor sex work

·         Sugar arrangements

·         Telephone, text-based, TV-based, live voyeurism

·         Therapeutic services

·         Webcamming

Individuals selling sex in England and Wales today are varied in terms of demographics and motivation. At the same time, there are recurrent patterns of experience or identity that mark some individuals’ entry into the sex industry and/or the type of setting, service or the conditions in which they work.

We found that a substantial proportion of individuals (mainly women and trans women) are selling sex to get by financially, given different constraints in their lives around caring responsibilities, physical and mental health, lack of access to social security benefits and support services, workplace discrimination, or other reasons.  Their situation is compounded by stigma and managing safety, and many find that the longer they sell sex, the harder it can be to leave completely.  This moves beyond individual ‘choosing or ‘not choosing’ and recognises the structural economic and social context in which choices are narrowed: or in the case of those coerced in to selling sex, choices removed.

It’s hard to think about, but frail older women in nursing homes get sexually abused too

The Conversation, November 22, 2018 6.02am AEDT

We don’t often think of older women being victims of sexual assault, but such assaults occur in many settings and circumstances, including in nursing homes. Our research, published this week in the journal Legal Medicine, analysed 28 forensic medical examinations of female nursing home residents who had allegedly been victims of sexual assault in Victoria over a 15-year period.

The majority of the alleged victims had some form of cognitive or physical impairment. All 14 perpetrators who were reported were male, half of whom were staff and half other residents.

 

 

Temporary migration and family violence: an analysis of victimisation, support and vulnerability

Monash University / InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, 2017

Family violence does not discriminate. However, it is known that for various subsets of the population, both the experience of family violence and the support and response options do vary, in some cases significantly. The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence (VRCFV) acknowledged the importance of recognising these points of differentiation among key groups.

This report presents the results of the first comprehensive study of a subset of the immigrant and refugee community: temporary migrants. This group is comprised of those who are in Australia on temporary visas, which include partner-related visas, as well as working, student, visitor and other temporary visas.

Temporary migration status matters in the context of family violence because, in addition to the acknowledged levers of financial, emotional, technological, physical and sexual abuse that occur across situations of family violence, uncertainty of migration status creates additional leverage for violence and control.

This report draws on detailed cases of 300 women who sought the support service of InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence over 2015–16. The findings lay the ground for a range of potential interventions and improved responses for this group of women, on the basis of significant data that details the specific impact of migration status on the experience of family violence and access to support.

In summary, this report urges recognition of the following:

  • Temporary migration status impacts women regardless of whether or not they are eligible to apply for the family violence provision
  • On the one hand, migration status is prioritised over and above the experience of family violence. The response and support made available is dependent on migration status first and foremost, rather than risk and need in relation to experiencing family violence. This is most evident in relation to the limits on access to financial and housing support for women with temporary migration status.
  • On the other, migration status is often not factored into assessment of risk. The failure to recognise, understand and assess risk pertaining to migration status results in limited recognition of violence, abuse and coercion in all their forms, and their impact.
  • As a nation we are only just coming to grips with the complexity of family violence, the interventions required to better understand and manage risk, what is required to prevent family violence and what we need to do to ensure a comprehensive, impactful and efficient response. It is critical that we respond to family violence first and foremost, in its various manifestations across Australia, and that we recognise and support all victims equally, regardless of migration status or any other point of difference.

Access full report (PDF): Temporary Migration and Family Violence: An analysis of victimisation, vulnerability and support 

Let’s talk about sex: Broaching sexual ethics with young people

Australian Institute of Family Studies, 8 June 2016

Sexual violence and coercion is a serious problem faced by young people. Young women aged 18-24 are the most likely group to have experienced sexual violence in the past 12 months.

As awkward or embarrassing as we can sometimes find it to talk to young people about sex and relationships, research such as that from the ABS shows how important it is to initiate discussions about ethical and respectful relationships from a young age. Doing so has the potential to contribute to the prevention of sexual violence.

But we don’t always provide young people with information about sexual consent and negotiating romantic or sexual relationships as part of sex education, despite the research indicating that young people want and need this information

Read more here