The ‘extreme’ number of sex workers is directly linked to government austerity measures, says the chief executive of a Manchester sexual health centre.
Kate Allison, CEO of Manchester Action on Street Health (MASH), reported last week that Manchester had seen a 60% increase in street prostitution in 2014
She made her comments in the Manchester City Council report – Tackling Hidden Crimes and Behaviours – published on January 14.
Ms Allison said: “There are definite links with austerity. We did some research last year which showed that there are more women working, certainly indoors for example.
“There are fewer punters, and there is more competition among the women.
“The women are taking more risks in order to bring the money in and we also know that with the women returning, there are clear links with benefits sanctions.”
According to the report sex workers are particularly vulnerable to violence and because of the hidden nature of the work and stigma attached to it, victims are less likely to report incidents.
Ms Allison said: “We are extremely busy. We were increasingly busy last year. We saw over 1,100 individual women.
“What we are seeing is an increase in women who had previously stopped returning to sex work, doing a bit as a response to a financial crisis.”
Ms Allison said there is consistent evidence suggesting the majority of sex workers will be subject to violence at some point and many had disclosed unreported rapes and sexual assaults to the centre.
Discussing a recent drop-in session, she said: “First of all one of our regular service visitors disclosed that she had been raped but she did not want to reveal it.
“Then another woman came in, it was only her second time out working on the street. She disclosed a historic rape, child abuse and ongoing fears of violence in her current relationship.
“While we were talking to her about the support we could offer, the room she was in shook as another woman was violently pushed against the window of the interview room and she nearly fell through.”
The woman was reportedly covered in blood but was unwilling to cooperate with the centre and soon left: the police were called but were unable to locate her the next day.
Image courtesy of Christina Saint Marche via Flickr