Its Comic Relief week! I know that so many people will be supporting Comic Relief today and I wanted to give you an example of the difference your work is making. Comic Relief’s funding allows us to offer specialist support to sex workers who have experienced sexual or domestic violence. Sex workers face a particular challenge when reporting crimes due to the stigma surrounding sex work. Sex workers still face prejudice from support services and the legal system when reporting crimes of a sexual nature committed against them. Frequently, their sex work is held against them, even when they have suffered the most horrific crimes.
My role is to support women through the whole criminal justice system, if they choose to go to the police, as well as supporting women who have been the victims of sexual or domestic abuse who don’t want to make a formal complaint. To have a specialist service that understands issues like the above, where conversations about work are not awkward and someone to help them navigate the system makes a real difference to the women.
Working one to one with the women has been really rewarding. I have supported women through the court process and have been the link to the police, as well as other supporting agencies; including accessing mental and physical health appointments and looking for volunteering opportunities and diversionary activities to help them combat social isolation. I also visit local hostels to raise awareness of our services. From the feedback we know that without Basis Sex Work’s involvement, some of these women would have not had accessed the support they need and have a right to. Also, its often just a real support to be believed and have someone to talk to that understands: “I’m thankful to you for everything, a big long weight off my shoulders feeling loads better thanks. ”
This post has allowed me to further develop our relationship with the Crown Prosecution Office and is something I’m proud to be working on. It was particularly special to have the Chief Prosecutor in to speak to our service users at our Xmas do as part of our #17daysofaction to End Violence Against Sex Workers. They talked to them about what consent is, and when and how it can and can’t be given. They spoke to the women about how they would want to prosecute any attacks on them as they would do any women, and the fact that they are sex workers does not mean that they will be seen as any different. West Yorkshire CPS have a good track record in this we are pleased to say.
Sometimes it’s been difficult to get women to engage with the one to one support about domestic violence or sexual violence issues as the women often have so many complex issues in their life; sexual abuse and violence only being one of them. In some cases, sexual abuse or other forms of violence have been normalised, particularly with street sex workers. Through our work we have already achieved a lot in increasing the number of sex workers willing to trust in the criminal justice process. But, domestic violence is still normalized for many women, and therefore much more challenging for them to address.
I’m proud to work for an organisation that allows me to have a flexible approach to supporting women through difficult times and working with them on their priority needs; helping me build strong working relationships. Thank you to everyone that has and will be supporting Comic Relief today!