Registered Charity Number: 1099006

Life after the streets – Susie’s story

Posted by Friends of Beyond the Streets on 16/11/2011 at 10:48 AM

In a previous article ‘What is One25’, we set out the sterling work that our award-winning charity in Bristol has been doing reaching out to women trapped in street sex work.

Thanks to a team that comprises 25 paid staff, and 140 volunteers, over 280 women are reached each year, helping them to take those vital first steps in a bid to break free from a chaotic life, that is often fuelled by addition to drugs and alcohol. It’s a sad fact that of those still working the streets, over 99% are addicted to one or more Class A drugs and / or alcohol.

We presented some of the statistics, which paint a grim picture of the harsh realities, and yet which offer hope that women can, and do, break free.

In 2010, One25 worked intensively with 108 women of whom:
• 25 stopped sex-working and
• 32 more maintained their escape from prostitution;
• 61 accessed addiction treatment;
• 32 were reunited with safe family members;
• 69 used health services;
• 40 started therapy;
• 33 were securely housed and supported to maintain that tenancy;
• 30 reduced involvement with criminal justice as offenders
• 34 were involved in training, education or employment

But these figures belie the real situation. Behind each statistic is a real person, with her own story of life on the streets. This time round, we thought we’d share one with you. This is Susie’s story.

In search of a normal life

Susie is a 32 year old, softly spoken woman with a traumatic childhood who One25 have supported for a number of years. Last year Susie got pregnant and knew she needed to turn her life around in order to be a loving, stable mother for her baby so she got a place at our mother and baby home, Naomi House. She told us “I had been trying to change my life for a while and being pregnant makes me stronger and I want that change so much. I want a real life – a normal life.”

However, when she was 28 weeks pregnant she was brutally raped and her life threatened. She turned up the next day to One25’s drop-in heavily traumatised and in need of our support.

Trust and trauma counselling

Susie trusted One25’s drop-in coordinator, Tina Dunne from outreach and drop-in so she called her early the next morning – still heavily in shock. Tina brought her to drop-in and with One25’s therapeutic caseworker, Dee Parkin, they supported Susie to report the crime and gave her acute trauma counselling and victim support. Susie was very worried about the health of her unborn child so Dee then took her along to maternity services and after that to the Sexual Assault and Rape Centre. Throughout this process we organised one-to-one support for her for the next 8 hours as she was feeling desperately traumatised.

Susie was fast-tracked into detox and from there into Naomi House, which is the only supported mother and baby home in England and Wales for women with addictions and a history of sex work. Dee visited weekly, providing counselling and homeopathy and the police visited fortnightly to support her through the criminal justice process. The severity of her attack left her speechless for months and she suffered badly from post-traumatic stress disorder. Thanks to these therapies Susie’s symptoms were reduced until her attacker was caught and a trial date set. She bravely witnessed throughout the trial, though the process left her upset and physically sick as she gave her testimony.

Justice and building bridges

Susie found justice at last when her attacker was found guilty on all 5 counts of rape and was sentenced to 9 years imprisonment. She said “I was really scared that no-one would believe me, but it was worth it to stop him from hurting other women. That thought drove me on.”  Susie and her baby stayed for several more months at Naomi House, while Susie built bridges with safe members of her family. Gradually, she started a new life, learned skills and grew in confidence as a fantastic mother to her healthy, happy child. She says: “Me and my baby girl are doing so well. Now I know I’m worth so much more. Now I’m a much better mother to my children. Now I’m building my relationship back up with my family. Thanks to Naomi House, me and my baby daughter are together – and thanks to me of course, for being strong.”

There are many more stories like this from women who, with our support, are finding the strength breaking free. To find out more about the women we work with, see our website

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Our comments on the ACPO Strategy

Posted by Beyond The Streets on 03/11/2011 at 09:58 AM

Yesterday ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) released their new strategy for dealing with prostitution and sexual exploitation.  The purpose of this strategy is to:

- Protect Individuals and Communities from risk, threat and harm
- Investigate and disrupt organised criminal activity
- Support or create effective partnerships
- Undertake or support research
- Support national policymakers.

This strategy recognises that those in prostitution who experience abuse and exploitation needs help and support to access health, welfare and exit services, in order to leave it behind and start a new life;  and that communities as well as individuals can be victimised and need help also. Consequently it promotes a holistic approach to the policing of prostitution “that keeps in balance the three essential elements of individual, community, and the investigation and prosecution of those who exploit and abuse”.

Simon Byrne, the ACPO lead for prostitution and sexual exploitation, writes: “There is no perfect solution to dealing with prostitution and sexual exploitation, my ethos is to use evidence based approaches that consider risk, threat and harm to all.”

We agree with Simon Byrne that there isn’t a perfect solution. Prostitution and sexual exploitation are complicated issues and there is no ‘one size fits all’ response. Behind each scenario are unique lives and stories, and what is important is to continuing striving towards protecting the vulnerable.

There is a danger that some of the comments made will lead to fresh calls for wholesale decriminalisation under the guise of greater rights for ‘sex workers’. As has been recognised there aren’t simple solutions, but what is essential is that we protect the rights of those that are being exploited and ensure effective routes out are available. The previous government claimed that developing routes out was a priority yet little resources were made available to make this happen. We hope that the current government will not only look at how the law should be enforced, but ensure resources are also made available to the many projects working with women in prostitution.

If you would like to read this article than please click here.

If you would like to read Simon Byrne’s blog than please click here.

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