Sex workers have reported a history of stigma associated with their identity and labor, which has resulted in numerous barriers to justice, social services, and healthcare. The current study aimed to experimentally investigate the effects of sex work stigma on observers’ victim blame and empathy toward sexual assault survivors. The participants included 197 undergraduate students from the Midwestern US who were randomly assigned to read a newspaper article reporting a sexual assault in which the victim’s identity was manipulated as a sex worker or a non-sex worker between the conditions. Results indicated participants assigned to the article describing the rape of a sex worker responded to the article with statistically less victim empathy and more victim blame than participants who read an article describing the rape of a non-sex worker. Integrating stigma theory and qualitative research on sex work stigma, the implications of the results demonstrate a significant barrier sex workers may face within the criminal justice system when reporting acts of violence against them. Recommendations for sex work decriminalization, changing the conversation of academic discourse on sex work, and educational initiatives are proposed to reduce the stigma of this marginalized population.
The regulation of sex work continues to be a divisive topic in England and internationally. Policies governing the policing of the sex industry in England are continually revised and debated, but are seldom grounded in empirical evidence of sex workers’ experiences. Based on 49 qualitative interviews with sex workers in England, this article finds that indoor sex workers had far more positive experiences with the police than outdoor sex workers. Despite this difference, both indoor and outdoor sex workers perceive their interactions with the police through the lens of their stigmatized status as sex workers and do not expect respectful treatment by the police. This article presents compelling evidence that an enforcement-led approach to policing creates insuperable barriers to the success of protective policing.
Original title of the report in German: Unterstützung des Ausstiegs aus der Prostitution – Kurzfassung des Abschlussberichtes der wissenschaftlichen Begleitung zum Bundesmodellprojekt
Decriminalisation: A harm minimisation and human rights approach to regulating sex work.
Author: Gillian Abel, PhD 2010
Ph.D. Thesis, University of Otago, Public Health Research
This thesis takes a community-based participatory approach, using mixed methods to examine the impact of the decriminalisation of sex work in New Zealand through the lens of a public health discourse of harm minimisation. The key question addressed in this thesis is whether decriminalisation has minimised the harms experienced by sex workers. Rather than taking a narrow view of harm minimisation and looking merely at the practices of sex workers, I have taken a more holistic stance, taking into account structural social issues which contribute to the health and wellbeing of sex workers. Data were collected through a survey of 772 sex workers and in-depth interviews with 58 sex workers in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Napier and Nelson. Estimates were done of the number of sex workers in these cities which show little change post-decriminalisation compared to estimates done prior to decriminalisation. There has been some change in the shape of the industry with more people working privately in the suburbs and fewer in the brothels and escort agencies but little change in size of the street-based sector. Such minimal change in the size of the sex industry is not surprising as the underlying motivations for working in this industry have not changed in a decriminalised environment. As this thesis demonstrates, structural factors (such as economic climate, employment opportunities, welfare, housing and sickness benefits) are associated with the entry into sex work rather than the way the industry is regulated.