Statement: Part-time street worker
I work on the streets part-time so it isn’t feasible for me to have a flat on my own, but if I could work with a friend from a flat I would do that because it would be safer. I wouldn’t be having to look over my shoulder for the police all the time. Because of the laws I have to make an instant judgement about clients and jump into cars, which is much more dangerous.
Everybody has their own view of what a prostitute is. In reality it is your sister, your neighbour, your mother, that has struggled to feed, clothe, heat a home and provide a safe environment for the people she loves. This is becoming more apparent with all the benefit cuts and job losses. The reason it has been so well hidden is because of the criminality of it. That is it.
If clients were criminalised it would make it more difficult for us to find them. I would be put in a more dangerous situation because the clients would be trying to hide so they don’t face the criminal charges. I would have to work in more out of the way, more secluded and therefore more dangerous places. Clients are still going to want sex so they will come out to find prostitutes or sex workers. Sex workers are going to be out there because they need the money.
Men who buy sex aren’t doing anything wrong. The only abuse and violence I faced is in the home. I met a better class of people on the street. Both women and men have sex for all kinds of reasons, for a drink or a meal. I’d sooner have the cash and buy my own meal. I don’t take any risks either. The only thing we do without a condom is talk.
Once you have been criminalised as a prostitute, it would show up on any police check that prospective employers run before they offer you a job. So you will not get that job. I was offered a job as a home help but because it was working with vulnerable adults and children I had to have the advanced police checks. The job was quite well paid and would have fitted in perfectly with my life caring for my disabled child. But because of being criminalised for working as a prostitute I had to refuse that job. I couldn’t even say why. I couldn’t risk them finding out and risking my child being taken off me.
Decriminalisation is the only way that the people that are working in the sex industry get a chance to enter the so-called legal working population. They would be able to apply for positions without the worry of their past sex work going against them.
Decrimalisation would mean that we have an equal playing field. If we are attacked when working we can report it the same as if we are attacked in the home. When some women report violence to the police they say “if you don’t like it then go home.
I was attacked in my own home during a burglary. A neighbour called the police and when they arrived they said to me “what wouldn’t he pay you.” They didn’t take it as an assault or violent robbery they just thought it was a client and that I was only reporting because I didn’t get paid.
Career prostitutes are few and far between. Most sex workers are mothers who think “just this once”, “just this week” to cover a heating bill or make something a bit special to eat. Then we get stuck in something we can never get out of. I never thought the first time I went out that I would still be here at my age. Now I have a record so can’t get another job.
When I was ill they paid someone else over a £1000 a week to care for my child – the work I do for free. I was grateful that someone else cared for my child but it was like a slap in the face. A percentage of what they pay a stranger would make life so much easier and I wouldn’t have had to go on the street. But because I am a mother I’m not entitled and because I care I did go on the street.