Violence against women in prostitution

In search of prospects for survival and new opportunities abroad, many women succumb to prostitution in foreign countries. It is not uncommon to immigrate to a rich country like Austria in order to fulfil a dream of financial independence. Some of them are victims of verbal and physical violence.

The numbers are increasing. The severely traumatised women are ashamed of the violence they had to experience. It is not easy for those affected to escape due to a lack of language skills and training. Sex work not only leaves physical scars, but also psychological ones.

VIOLENCE AS A MEANS OF EXERTING PRESSURE ON PEOPLE

Unfortunately, violence in prostitution is omnipresent. Many women suffer from serious head and body injuries. Shame and desperation stop those affected from reporting this to the authorities. The number of unreported cases is high. Some sex workers live with their suitors because it makes them feel more protected. Verbal humiliation and beatings occur often. They cover their bruised bodies so that they may not feel ashamed when going to their next customer(s). Many suitors treat women as their goods and property.

The corona pandemic has made it much more difficult for sex workers because all brothels are closed. Many prostitutes cannot work. All the acts of violence that occur because of that are a sign of just what danger exactly they expose themselves to. These are extremely dangerous situations for the woman because they have no one protecting them. It is not uncommon for prostitutes to visit their suitors at home, where violent acts and perverse sex acts occur frequently. The option of not going to work is often not given because they usually have a family to support. There is also a study that shows that some suitors have a lot in common with sexually violent men.

SEX AND VIOLENCE

‘Sexual violence includes all sexual acts that are forced upon or forced on a child, a woman or a man. It is an act of aggression and abuse of power and not the result of uncontrollable sexual urges.’ 1

It ranges from verbal humiliation to the most brutal rape. Among other things, verbal violence is often used to intimidate the victims so that fear keeps them from reporting anything to the authorities. A visit to the authorities is often associated with emotional stress. Most of the time these women are devalued and abused, in addition to threats being made against their families.

Sadly, sexual perversion is not only seen in pornographic acts, but is a very real and not uncommon reality. Violence or physically abusing the victim is used as an effective means of getting one’s way. Physical abuse includes abuse such as hitting, pushing or choking. This type of internet violence is being glorified in pornography and the number of suicides is increasing enormously.

1 https://www.gewaltinfo.at/fachwissen/formen/sexualisiert/ (Accessed last on January 21, 2021 at 5:29 pm)

PREVENTION AND SUPPORT FOR VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE

But there is hope. As a result of social awareness, more and more prevention options are being established for those affected. The issue of violence affects not only women in prostitution, but also all social classes. Today’s society is increasingly more sensitised to the topic.

Most victims are female. Assistance and support are not only provided by the authorities, but also by committed associations and organisations. The police offer help such as open dialogues about what happened, the filing of official reports/complaints and general protection. The victims have the right to a process and psychosocial and legal support. Our partner association Herzwerk offers extensive support and helps women and men who want to get out of prostitution. Hope for the Future offers those affected free German courses to promote integration into society in general and integration into the labour market.

Translated by Sophie Kitchen

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