COVID-19: The experiences and needs of women in the sex industry
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is having a significant impact on the lives of women who sell and exchange sex in many different aspects such as:
relying on selling or exchanging sex to survive for basics like food and accommodation
trafficked for sexual exploitation
involved in street prostitution
controlled by boyfriends / a pimp
paying off debts to loan sharks / dealers
involved with escort agencies/ saunas / brothels or self-advertising
in lap dancing clubs
involved in pornography or exchanging images for money / gifts
Women are primarily there through a lack of realistic alternatives and choices. In the current emergency, they are facing the same challenges that many other women such as housing, no money, lack of access to services and caring responsibilities. They are also in relationships with high levels of violence, abuse and coercion but these women are also facing additional challenges in accessing support due to stigma, fear of disclosing their specific circumstances and confidentiality. Many do not access services, and many do not disclose their involvement in the sex industry due to stigma, fear of judgemental attitudes, loss of anonymity and confidentiality.
If you know someone that you think might be suffering exploitation and needs support, there are a number of emergency funds and specialist services available:
What emergency funds are available
For women in dire financial situations who are at risk of destitution, there are small crisis funds available through –
SWARM: Sex worker led organisation who have established an emergency fund for people in the sex industry. Women can find out more on how to apply to the fund by emailing email@example.com. More info can also be found at their website www.swarmcollective.org
Umbrella Lane: Sex worker led organisation who have established an emergency fund for people in the sex industry. Women can find out more on how to apply to the fund by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More info can also be found at their website www.umbrellalane.org
Victim Fund: Victim Support Scotland (www.victimsupport.scot) are administering a £100,000 ‘victims fund’ which women involved in selling sex are eligible to access. Women who sell or exchange sex can access this support through the Encompass network agencies below.
There are a small number of specialist agencies across Scotland focusing on supporting women involved in selling or exchanging sex. These organisations can offer information, support and advocacy into other services as well as offering practical assistance such as access to the Victim Fund outlined above.
Encompass network website https://www.encompassnetwork.info/ Aberdeen
Aberdeen Cyrenians - work with vulnerable people in Aberdeen area. Offer 1-2-1 support, emotional support, safety planning, practical support, advice & information, crisis intervention, advocacy, assessment of needs and referral to other agencies. flexible, needs led approach, often in response to times of crisis as well as short-, medium- and long-term support depending on individual need. Currently providing phone support, as well as practical assistance delivering food, toiletries, baby items and clothing for those experiencing hardship as part of their AC2U Covid-19 response. Support can be accessed via phone (0808 1964422) and email (email@example.com). More information can be found at their website www.aberdeen-cyrenians.org
Alcohol and Drugs Action - Quay Services offers regular outreach services and 1-2-1 support to women involved in street and indoor prostitution. Safety advice, panic alarms, condoms, pregnancy kits, advocacy, referrals to other related services and support to attend appointments. Support is available via phone (01224 594700 / 07927 192706) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org). More information can be found at their website www.alcoholanddrugsaction.org.uk
Dundee and Tayside
Vice Versa (WRASAC) - Promotes the health, rights and dignity of women who are involved in exchanging sexual acts for some form of payment. provide 1:1 support on a range of issues including substance misuse, sexual health, physical and mental health and well- being, trauma and abuse, housing/homelessness and offending behaviour as well as the provision of Personal Safety equipment and information. Support is currently being delivered via phone (01382 205556) and email (email@example.com). Live chat with trained sexual violence support and trauma workers is also available at www.wrasac.org.uk
Perth and Kinross
Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre - Provide crisis support, therapeutic support, and advocacy to survivors of rape and sexual abuse. There is a specialist worker for women affected by CSE. All support is currently delivered via phone (01738 630965) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). More info can be found at their website www.rasacpk.org.uk
Edinburgh and the Lothians
Another Way – SACRO offers support in areas such as healthcare, housing, benefits, parenting, addictions, domestic abuse and exiting sex work if wished. The service also allows women to anonymously report offences through the Ugly Mug scheme or to the police. Support is currently available via phone (07966 222 636). More information about the Another Way service can be found here www.sacro.org.uk/services/criminal-justice/another- way-service
Routes Out - Offering telephone support to new and existing clients. New referrals can be made via 0141 276 0737. Routes Out offer advocacy for benefits, money advice, housing, physical and mental health. Harm reduction services continue to be available at Drop In with a door service only. Monday – Friday 10am – 4pm, Wednesday – Saturday 9pm – 1am. http://www.routesout.org
CLiCK - Offer practical and emotional support across Scotland to women involved in selling or exchanging sex online. Women can access support via online live chat and self-refer into one-to-one support with a local CLiCK Women’s Worker. Also provide a COVID-19 resource hub and platform for women to share their needs during the coronavirus pandemic. All support can be accessed via their website www.click.scot
TARA - : Support and advocacy for women who have been trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and identified in Scotland. Telephone support and advocacy support for current service users. Out of hours still available but telephone response only between 12am and 9am. These changes ensure we continue to have service capacity to provide in person responses to urgent cases and/or new referrals.
Call: 0141 276 7724 (telephone only between 12am and 9am) Website www.tarascotland.org.uk
Women’s Support project is