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The after-effects of the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis has seen a sharp increase in sexual violence amongst women selling sex and/or experiencing sexual exploitation.

This includes women who have been systematically targeted for sexual exploitation, or who find themselves with no option but to turn to ‘survival sex’, exchanging sex to meet immediate needs such as food, shelter or to provide for their children.

Many women face danger from both intimate partner violence and repeated sexual violence from multiple perpetrators.

In addition, women experiencing existing vulnerabilities such as poverty, homelessness, poor mental health and past experiences of trauma are at increased risk of sexual violence.

This means that for women to break free of perpetrators’ cycle of violence, services must be able to address factors which may act as a barrier to escape, such as a woman’s access to economic resources.

Raising awareness

Access to specialist services for women who are selling sex and/or experiencing sexual exploitation is vital.

Anawim’s free, confidential helpline is available on 0800 019 8818 for anyone who identifies as a woman to speak with a specialist female caseworker.

Caseworkers can offer support with any type of abuse and/or violence, mental health, finances, housing, families and relationships or anything else. By providing a wrap-around service, we are better able to support women with existing vulnerabilities who might feel there are more barriers in escaping violence and abuse.

Anawim can also provide women with access to free legal aid and advocacy work. Many incidents of sexual offences go unreported, with low conviction rates making matters worse. Our caseworkers can connect women with lawyers while also supporting women to navigate the legal system, speaking on a woman’s behalf if necessary.

While our own services are specialised for women, we understand that it is not just women who experience sexual abuse and violence. A range of services can also be found on Mind’s website for anyone who is experiencing abuse and violence.