Registered Charity Number: 1099006

On-Street Grooming

Posted by Beyond The Streets on 21/12/2011 at 08:15 PM



Sexual exploitation of young people is not a new thing within society, and it takes place within almost all communities, cultures, religions and races. However, over the last decade a new pattern of abuse has emerged in the UK, this is: ‘on-street grooming’.


‘On-street grooming’ is the process by which teenage and adult men pick up young adolescent girls through showering them with presents and compliments. Once trust has been established and a relationship built up, sexual abuse begins. Girls who are victims of this crime are often passed between friends or gang raped, in some cases in exchange for cash, and in other cases to raise the ‘street cred’ of the perpetrator. In the UK, perpetrators of this crime are found to be largely British-Pakistani, whilst it is young white girls who are their targets.


Over the last two months, this topic has been covered by two hard-hitting TV Programmes. Early November Channel Four aired ‘Dispatches: Britain’s Sex Gangs’, a few weeks later BBC One aired the programme ‘Exposed: Groomed for Sex’. Throughout both of these programmes the presenters travel around speaking to members of the British-Pakistani community, the police, agencies working with this vulnerable population and the girls themselves. 


Within both of these programmes, the issue that was highlighted most strongly was the racial and religious backgrounds of the perpetrators of this crime. Adil Ray the presenter of the BBC programme highlighted that the men from these communities are only a handful, and are not representative of the communities themselves. Nevertheless, it was also noted that the socio-cultural backgrounds of these men entwined with the ‘McSexualisation’ of culture that you find in the west is a contributing factor to shaping their mentality. As Ghaffar Hussain(1) writes, “[within these communities] segregation between the sexes is enforced from an early age, sex itself is seen as a taboo topic and never discussed at home and women are often expected to behave in a subservient fashion. At the same time, the young men are also exposed to a highly sexualised popular culture where women are objectified”


Although these may be contributing factors to the creation of this sub-culture, it is unacceptable to lay any blame with anyone other than the perpetrators of this horrible crime. During the BBC documentary it was said: “…prostitution brings the crime to the areas… You can see how easy it is for people to get involved in these sorts of acts, regardless of background… This street’s problems don’t in any way excuse what these men did, but now I have spent time here I can see how this environment can be a potential breeding ground for sexual exploitation”.


It is important to realise and understand that whether it is on-street grooming, prostitution, pornography, trafficking or any other form of sexual exploitation, that it is the men who commit these crimes, whatever their race, age, or religion, who must take responsibilities for their actions. At the same time further preventative work should be done to challenge cultural attitudes and to educate young girls in the potential dangers of on-street grooming.


1. http://www.thecommentator.com/article/722/on_street_grooming

 


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Students Turning to Prostitution to Fund Studies?

Posted by Beyond The Streets on 14/12/2011 at 10:30 AM



According to recent claims by the National Union of Students (NUS), greater numbers of students in England are turning to prostitution to fund their education.

Whilst the NUS has emphasised that there were no concrete figures to support the claims, it does raise an important issue that funding cuts may push people into prostitution and this has been raised on numerous occasions over the last year.

Some may claim that prostitution is a quick and easy way to make quick money. The emotional, psychological and physical impact on women’s lives however cannot be overlooked. It is dangerous to think that it’s a solution to difficulties in paying tuition fees or living costs whilst at university.

Certainly there are a few examples of some women in the west making vast amounts of money; however some researchers say it is short term and has many strings attached. For instance one study calculated that a prostituted woman received only 8% of her gross earnings after subtracting the substantial costs she was required to make.(1)

Research suggests that women in prostitution are 60-100 times more likely to be murdered that non-prostituted women. (2) There is an assumption that off street prostitution and escorting can be safe and the environment controlled. Experience shows that violence still occurs and that women still face other traumas and harm.

Any students who are considering prostitution as a way of raising money to study must realise that any assessment they make of the risks is likely to be limited and will include a wide range of assumptions. The hidden dangers and vulnerability that people in prostitution face make this far from an easy option and one which is likely to be regretted for life.

 

(1) DeRiviere, L. (2006) ‘A Human Capital Methodology for Estimating the Lifelong Personal Costs of Young Women Leaving the Sex Trade’. Feminist Economics, 12 (3), July, 367-402.
(2) Lowman and Fraiser, 1994 cited in Salfati et al, 2008

 


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One25 and the work that they do

Posted by Friends of Beyond the Streets on 05/12/2011 at 09:33 AM



Van outreach and Vice team – unlikely allies


One25 is an award-winning charity in Bristol reaching out to women trapped in street sex work. In our previous article ‘Susie’s story’ we outlined how women can break free from a chaotic life, thanks to One25’s team that comprises 25 paid staff, and 140 volunteers. Each year, we reach over 280 women living a life that is often fuelled by addition to drugs and alcohol, helping them to take those vital first steps in a bid to exit the streets.  We are the only organisation in Bristol specifically supporting these 220 street-working women and 60 who have exited.


During our sixteen years of activity, we have developed strong partnerships with many bodies, including the police, NHS organisations, alcohol and substance misuse agencies, and sexual health clinics. Our aim is to bring services directly to women still working the street, giving unconditional love without judging them. Over 99% of the women are addicted to one or more Class A drugs and / or alcohol.


One25’s van outreach is a frontline service which makes contact with the most vulnerable.  Rachel* is one of the women for whom the van meant the difference between extreme isolation, and the chance for a new start.


A voice from the van


Rachel is currently in rehab, and she explains how outreach changed her life. Rachel’s childhood was filled with sexual abuse, neglect and alcoholism, which had seen her accept the wrong relationships and spiral into chaos:


“Street life was just non-stop abuse, sexual and mental, verbal, physical. But I just knew One25 were always there for me. I remember standing on the road waiting for that little yellow van to come round. It was a life saver sometimes. I was barred from every place down there because I worked the streets. Normal people walking down the road wouldn’t give me the time of day.


“But the people on outreach understood. They listened. You’d get on the van, you’d see a smiling face, you’d get that little packed lunch and little hot drinks every night. It was just a safe place to go where you felt a part of something and not shut away from everything. Because I wasn’t part of normal society. I was just existing, you know.”


Recently, One25 has noticed a shift in working patterns, with more women working after midnight.  In response, we launched a late night outreach last July, which identified 33 new women, of whom two thirds have already started using our other services to gain more in-depth support.


A sensitive approach


One of the reasons that One25 sees many of the women exit street work is down to our ability to work with agencies across Bristol, including the police. Although we may take different approaches to the women, what we have in common is an understanding the street-based sex workers should be treated with respect. Vice Liaison Officer Vicky Lewis explains how she and her colleagues take a sensitive line when tackling prostitution:


“We respect the One25 van as it’s the women’s safe space, and we won’t invade on that. It’s a fine balance because the women are breaking the law. We are there to support the women and to enforce the law.”


The partnership between the Vice team and One25 has flourished over the years, with officers running a surgery at the One25 drop-in sessions twice monthly, so that the women can approach the police in familiar surroundings, ask any questions, pass on intelligence and report any issues. Women trapped in street sex-work are 167 times more likely to be a victim of sexual violence than the general population. Of our 220 beneficiaries attacked last year, One25 supported 73 to report to police. Of 34 defendants charged to court, we stabilised and emotionally supported beneficiaries so that 62% (21) defendants were found guilty with a further 3 cases pending.


Vicky Lewis recognises that the women have to be treated sensitively, particularly when they are the target of violent and abusive attacks:


“Our aim is to get the women off the street, exiting prostitution and accessing drugs support programmes. That’s made a lot easier with charities like One25 - they are so committed to their work, passionate and very approachable. Even though we may have different views on how to deal with the situation, we will always consult with each other because we don’t want to do anything to the detriment of the woman if she is in case work, or under a programme.


“I wish every area had a One25, and although some areas have similar projects, One25 are the best, they are so patient.”


This is a sentiment that the women themselves echo, as Rachel* neatly sums up:


“I’m a year clean now. I find it a bit overwhelming sometimes, how much my life has changed in a year. I’d like to work with vulnerable women in the sex industry to show that you can get out of it. I know when you’re out there on the street, you can’t see any way out. I thought that was going to be my life forever. But One25 gave me that hope that I could do it. I’ve got a life now. I’ve got hope.”


In our next item, we’ll be exploring restorative justice and the role of programmes designed to tackle offenders’ behaviour. To find out more about the women we work with, see our website www.one25.org.uk


*Real name changed to protect identity


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