women@thewell: giving women entrapped in the sex trade a voice that is heard by all

As women@thewell reach our sixteenth year, we continue to develop and expand services throughout the organisation, thanks to the dedicated work of our growing team of staff and volunteers. Our specialist team work incredibly hard to advocate on behalf of women entrapped in the sex trade. Providing support to women who face a range of challenging situations, including homelessness, substance misuse, mental and physical health issues, poverty, experiences of both past and present sexual violence and severe trauma. This combination of abuse and disadvantage leaves women in an extremely vulnerable situation and with a wide range of barriers to exiting prostitution.

The extensive skill and expertise of our team ensure we are well equipped to provide support services in a trauma responsive way, breaking down the barriers, which entrap women in the sex trade.

Our focus is in supporting women to find exit strategies from prostitution. We believe that viable options emerge through support and advocacy in a trauma informed environment, when we are able to identify barriers, and open up solutions and alternatives away from the sex trade.

Our mission is to work towards full abolition of the sex trade, lobbying and campaigning around legislation that protects women. Now more than ever we believe this is the only way to keep women safe and protected. Under an abolitionist legal framework, society recognises that women are not saleable objects and should have choices, which come from a place of stability, not mere survival.

As Fiona Broadfoot, a survivor of internal trafficking and prostitution says “The UK needs to criminalise men who abuse women through prostitution because it is the demand creates the supply. Without demand from these men there would be no supply of vulnerable women and girls to be bought and sold.” 

We recently commissioned a research paper alongside Dr Pat Jones “Invisible, Prostitution and the lives of women”, listening to the voices of women entrapped in the sex trade, as well as some of the professional staff who provide support services.  The resulting report was unusual, in that it was not primarily focused on the facts of the women’s situations but with how the women make sense of their lives. In particular, reflection on what freedom means in their own lives and on issues such as safety, survival and solidarity. Listening to the women’s voices enabled an understanding of the damage done by prostitution as a tolerated social structure. The women’s voices are full of anguish, courage, resilience and morality. 

This year our international lobbying and campaigning work continues to progress and strengthen, enhanced by digital technology, enabling us to attend and speak at conferences and meetings globally. We make great strides with what we are able to offer through our training and consultancy. This ensures a wide reach, working towards a greater understanding throughout society of challenges faced by the most disadvantaged groups of women globally.

Our commitment now and always is to give women entrapped in the sex trade a voice that is heard by all.

Jo Thompson
External Affairs Manager