Expert calls for prostitutes to be offered fresh start

For EDP Sunday Michelle Bettles feature. Posed picture of model as prostitute.Photo: Simon Finlay

More joined-up support is needed to support sex workers, according to a UEA expert - Credit: Simon Finlay

Sex workers need a secure base and better access to alternative lifestyles to help them off the street, according to a university expert.

Dr Jane Dodsworth, associate professor in social work at the University of East Anglia who has researched the sex work and sexual exploitation in Norwich for more than 25 years, said collaboration between charities, the police and councils was key to providing the best support.

She spoke out after people in the Rosary Road area of the city raised concerns about prostitution, kerb crawlers and anti-social behaviour including drug use in the area and Old Library Wood.

Dr Jane Dodsworth, associate professor in social work at the University of East Anglia 

Dr Jane Dodsworth, associate professor in social work at the University of East Anglia - Credit: University of East Anglia

Dr Dodsworth said: "What makes a difference to the potentially very vulnerable group of people involved in sex work is the availability of relationship-based therapeutic support in order that they can begin to rebuild their self-esteem and begin to see legitimate alternatives as viable and themselves as deserving those alternatives.

"This support is most usually found in specialist voluntary support services who work closely with the police and the local authorities to provide a joined-up service. We have the Magdalene Group in Norwich offering this service.

"Sex workers need holistic support which addresses their issues including substance misuse, housing, health issues, domestic abuse, childcare, financial problems. They need a secure base. 

"The difficulty is these services are long term and costly but so are the consequences for not providing this help for this vulnerable group, their children and families and local communities.

"The action needed is for there to be a multi-agency approach with police targeting offenders and local authorities and voluntary agencies supporting sex workers.

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"The key is all agencies work together and sharing information and training on seeing the wider picture and this has always been the aim in Norfolk. The difficulty is resources are finite and other priorities inevitably take precedence, but the goodwill is there."

Chief Inspector Craig Miller, Julie Inns and Superintendent Jason Broome with the new community car.

Norfolk Police Chief Inspector Craig Miller - Credit: Norfolk Police

Norwich Police Chief Inspector Craig Miller said: "A multi-agency approach is required to tackle anti-social behaviour and we work closely with Norwich City Council, Doorway Women’s Services and other groups to tackle specific issues raised.

"Uniformed officers have been carrying out high visibility foot and car patrols during daytime and evening hours, supported by officers from the special constabulary."

'Getting off the streets was the hardest thing I've ever done'

A former sex worker has spoken of the horrors of prostitution and her journey to turning her life around.

Amanda, not her real name, was involved in the trade across the East of England for five years.

Her life spiralled out of control when she became hooked on hard drugs in her early 20s. 

"It happened very quickly," the 32-year-old said. "Basically what started out as a bit of a laugh turned into addiction. I needed money and selling sex just seemed like the easiest way.

"I actually made some good friends among the other women. But it is a very hard life. It came to a head when I was attacked one night. I knew then I had to get off the drugs and off the streets.

“I was lucky because I had the option to move away and got a lot of help from my family. But it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

“People need to know there is another option. There is an alternative.”