Calling on drug & alcohol treatment centres to give sex workers a voice

May 17 2016

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Kirsty Tate, Outreach Worker at The Nelson Trust, calls on drug and alcohol treatment centres across the UK to give sex working women a voice. Kirsty is an Outreach Worker to sex working women, based at The Nelson Trust’s Women’s Centre in Gloucester. Driven by a determination to lead these women into residential drug treatment, she runs a drop-in for a red light district of the city. She has developed The Griffin Program to enable women to heal from the effects of sex working. This specialist treatment is delivered at The Nelson Trust’s residential service in Stroud. Kirsty has been a Griffin Fellow and this executive summary is the result of her research for The Griffins Society, funded by the Lankelly Chase Foundation.

Kirsty wants to improve treatment for sex workers in residential drug rehabilitation. Her findings are now published so that others in the sector can improve their provision for each and every one of these women who have sex worked.

The exact number of commercial sex workers in the UK is open to dispute. Estimates have focussed on particular types of female sex work, predominantly on-street, off-street and escort sex work. Whilst most of the literature (including papers published by the Home Office in 2004) cite Kinnell’s (1999) figure of 80,000, the exact number of sex workers is unknown. According to Cusick et al. (2009), calculating the number of commercial sex workers is very difficult as sex work is mostly hidden and the population is transient, with people moving in and out of sex work constantly. Nevertheless, the general consensus suggests the population is between 50,000 and 80,000 (UK NSWP, 2008a).*

As part of her study, Kirsty interviewed street sex workers, escorts and parlour workers who had been through residential rehabilitation.

Any woman with a sex working, drug-addicted history is marginalised. Once in the criminal justice system, she is judged particularly deviant and ends up highly stigmatised and isolated. Her inner shame results from society’s condemnation and her own intense self-hatred. Kirsty believes that the barriers will break down when we give these women a voice. She recommends that...

… sex working is flagged up at assessment for rehab – she is calling for this to be adopted universally by all services.
… support staff with lived experience are recruited across the sector so that these women feel free to disclose.
… workshops and programmes are created so that these women are supported through disclosure and into recovery.
… more all-female environments are created so that those who have sex worked feel comfortable to share the burden with others who understand.
… more research is be done into the long-term effects of sex-working so that we can develop treatment programmes that meet their specific needs.

The Nelson Trust is a centre of excellent practice, bringing belief, hope and long term recovery to lives affected by addiction. Our professionals are continually developing new and creative ways to help those who come through our doors. The Griffin Programme is based on research informed by thirty years of experience in abstinence-based rehab. This is a pioneering approach that enables women with a sex working history to recover and thrive in the community. We believe that with the right support, understanding and empowerment, individuals can achieve their full potential.

If would like to learn more, please click here or book Kirsty to come and train your team, please do get in touch: kirsty@nelsontrust.com.

Click here to find out what some of the women who have been through our Griffin Programme say.

*Source: Balfour, R. and Allen, J. (2014), A Review of the Literature on Sex Workers and Social Exclusion