Me Myself

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2. The Harm of Prostitution

• Prostitution per se is a form of violence against women.

• Prostitution, in itself, is intrinsically traumatising.

• At an individual level, the harm is physical, social, emotional, and psychological.

• The harm extends to all women and humanity as a whole - socially, culturally, and globally.

• When one human person is degraded, all are degraded.

• In prostitution, repeated physical and sexual assaults are sustained. Beatings, extreme degradation and rape are frequent. The risk of murder is always present and real.

• Women in prostitution are often sought specifically for acts that are humiliating, degrading and violent.

• High numbers of women involved in prostitution report acute symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

• Significant numbers of women in prostitution are drug and /or alcohol dependent.

2. The harm of prostitution

Intrinsically harmful and traumatising

Prostitution, in itself, is a form of violence against women that is intrinsically traumatizing. There are many levels of harm implicated - as well as the physical harm and damage, there is the emotional and psychological harm of being sexually objectified. One study found that while there is more physical violence in street, as distinct from, brothel prostitution, there is no difference in the psychological trauma. The psychological damage is intrinsic to the act of prostitution.[1]

When a human being is reduced to a body, objectified to sexually service another, whether or not there is consent, violation of the human being has taken place[2].

As well as the harm to each individual, there is the social, cultural and global impact - the damage to the social position and perception of women both nationally and globally, the proliferation of sex tourism and trafficking and the normalization of all forms of violence against women. The sexual exploitation of prostitution is harmful to all women. The sexual degradation of any woman is the sexual degradation of all humanity.

International studies show that women in prostitution experience extremely high levels of violence such as beatings, rape, torture and terror.[3] Women in prostitution are constantly subjected to humiliations of all kinds, theft, physical and sexual assault, as well as the health risks from being sometimes required to have unprotected sex. It is not claimed that all men who use women in prostitution are violent but, essentially, what they purchase is the power to be violent with the likelihood that there will be no sanctions. Even when the violence does not occur, the threat and the lack of protection are always there. Sexual and other physical violence is the normative experience for women in prostitution.[4] The same experiences are reported across the globe, regardless of culture or race. Beatings, rape, and even murder are generally considered ‘occupational hazards’ of prostitution. The Council for Prostitution alternatives in Portland Oregon reported that of 179 women in their programme who left prostitution in 1990 -1991, 78% of the survivors were the victims of rape, a class A felony, 48% were raped by pimps an average of 16 times a year and more than 79% raped by johns (customers) an average of 33 times a year[5] The experience of prostitution has serious consequences for women’s health, quality of life and actual life expectancy. One study puts the mortality rate of women and girls in prostitution at 40 times higher than the national average[6]

Post traumatic stress

Studies of sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder in US rate the condition in those involved in prostitution as ‘enormously high’, higher than Vietnam veterans seeking treatment for the condition. Two thirds of women in prostitution report suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (compared to 5% of the general population). The vast majority report sustained recurrent physical and...
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