Reflections on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers 2017

About International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers &  BtG Video to Mark the Day

‘International Day to end Violence Against Sex Workers’  #IDEVASW was created to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers and to remember those who have been victims of violent crimes, particularly murder.    It was originally created by the Sex Workers Outreach Project in the US as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the “Green River Killer” in Seattle Washington. It has grown to be a global event, where sex workers, sex work support projects and their allies  come together in towns and cities around the world to remember sex workers who have experienced violence,  to highlight the need for sex worker rights to safety and protection to be respected and enshrined in laws and polices and to challenge stigma, criminalisation and laws which undermine sex worker safety and contribute to violence.   To read more about the day go to:

Matt Valentine-Chase a member of the BtG team has produced a short slideshow video for BtG to mark 17th December 2017

Posted by Matt Valentine-Chase on Saturday, 16 December 2017

Last year on 17th December we wrote about how  whilst acknowledging that most commercial sex interactions go without harassment and violence research indicates that sex workers are more at risk from targeted harassment and violence than the general public and many other occupational groups – this has been confirmed in research carried out this year by London School and Health and Tropical Medicine and the University of Leicester in relation to homicide, based on data available to the researchers. You can read a summary briefing about that research at:

We also postulated in last years blog that based on a number of studies we have carried out on sex work over the years, that it is important to unpack the nuances about which groups of sex workers experience violence, at what level and in what forms – in order to appropriately develop laws  and policies to prevent violence against sex workers. We identified the  three key elements informed by our research which allow for differences in the research evidence on the levels of violence between sectors and across different jurisdictions. These elements are the different locational and organisational factors which shape safety across sectors,  the relationship to the state of particular forms of sex work (i.e. it’s legal status, the extent to which it is criminalised and how those laws are enforced) and finally stigma, social status, and the ‘othering’ of sex workers  which increase hostility, hate crime and violence.  We also wrote about the need for an intersectional approach to make sense of sex workers varying experiences of hate crime  including for example the increased proportion of migrant sex workers amongst those sex workers who have been victims of murder in  recent years in the UK. Sadly this trend has continued in 2017, the one sex worker who we are aware has been a victim of  murder in the UK in 2017,  was Romina Kalachi  in London, her nationality was Romanian.

We also drew attention to the increasing proportion of UK  based sex worker murder victims who worked within the online and indoor settings, after a decade in which the majority of victims had been street workers. Also to research, which BtG aimed to build upon, which had turned it’s attention to online sex workers experience of crime,  carried out by  Prof Teela Sanders from the BtG team with other colleagues  Dr Laura Connelly and Laura Jarvis-King  published in in Sociological Research Online  It’s to the Beyond the Gaze research we now turn.

Solidarity & Reflection on research findings

On #IDEVASW 2017, as well as standing in solidarity with sex workers in the UK, supporting activities and campaigning activities being carried out by our partner organisations an other contributors to Beyond the Gaze, we have been reflecting on some of the findings from Beyond the Gaze. BtG is a participatory action research project and is the largest UK study to date of  internet sex work, focusing on the safety, working conditions and regulation of  internet based sex work (encompassing both in person and tech enables services).

Two very important aspects of our wider research activities carried out between 2015 and March 2017 have been interviews with internet based sex workers and also an online survey of people who work in the online sector. We were honoured that many people working in online sex work took time to take part in our anonymous and confidential sex work research survey and this meant, with 641 people taking part, we have the largest UK survey not only of online sex workers but of workers in any sector of the UK sex industry carried out to date.

BtG Findings on Safety and Crime

Some of the findings relating to safety and crimes against sex workers have been published in a book ‘Internet sex work’ based on our finding which was published in November 2017  More finding and analysis will be published in 2018  in journal articles and briefings following the launch in late January 2018.






In Beyond the Gaze we found that online and digital technologies played an important role within internet based sex worker’s safety practices. Online facilitated methods, such as screening through digital tools feature in many worker’s safety repertoires, often combined with non-digital ‘old school’ methods most of which pre-date the online sex work revolution. Online and digital technology has provided new opportunities for sex workers to improve screening and wider safety routines, indeed in the growing body of international research about internet mediated sex work the ability of technology to improve screening and safety is a salient theme (Ashford 2009; Cunningham and Kendall 2011; Peppet 2013; Ray 2007). Our  research highlighted how online platforms, applications and smart phone technology have been keenly used by online sex workers in the UK as a core part of  safety strategies  employed.

In our survey reports of sexual assault (including rape) were relatively low with 7.6 per cent (n=49) having experienced this in the last year and 19.5 per cent (n=125) per cent in the last five years, 77.7 per cent had not experience this in the last five years. Physical assault was reported at a lower level:  5 per cent (n=32) had experienced this in the last year and 12.9 per cent (n=83) in the last five years. Significantly, 84.4 per cent (n=541) had not experience assault in the last five years.  These levels are lower than those amongts surveys of street sex workers, but they are not negligible and there are three key points to caveat the possible improvement in risks and environment for sex workers  in the online sector that we wanted to draw attention to on 17th Dec.
  • Comparing these levels to workplace violence experienced in our sample to data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (Office for National Statistics 2016) suggests online sex workers experience higher levels of work related violence, with 1.3 per cent of women and 1.5 per cent of men having been victims of violence at work during the previous year. From our survey, threats of violence had been experienced by 12.6 (n=81) per cent of respondents in the last year and one quarter of workers during the last five years (25 per cent n=160), 72.9 (n=467) per cent had not experienced this.
  • Sanders, Grenfell et al  (2017) found (based on analysis of available data on sex worker homicides and comparative date for other professions) that sex workers are amongst one of the most likely groups of occupational workers to be murdered.  They also found changes in the composition of murders against sex workers in the past twenty years, with the trend  changing from greater risk being on the street, to more murders happening in indoor premises over the last five years. Read more at:
  • A  significant finding of BtG research was the high levels of digitally facilitated crime experienced by people in this sector. The most commonly identified crime type experienced by people in our survey was persistent or repeated/unwanted contact or attempts to contact through email, text or social media: 45.12 per cent had experienced this in the last year, 65.1 (n=417) in the last five, just under one third 34.2 per cent (n=219) had not experienced this over five years.  This was followed by threatening or harassing texts, calls or emails with 36.3 per cent (n=233) experiencing this in the last year, 56.2 per cent (n=360) in the last five years, with 42.7 (n=274) per cent not experiencing this in the last five years.  Both these crime types can form part of harassment and stalking.

So technology as well as presenting safety benefits can also be used to facilitate crimes against sex workers, generating new harms and presenting greater risk of exposure and privacy violations. Key digital risks for people in our survey included:

  • Online harassment, stalking and persistent unwanted behaviour through phone or computer mediated communication.
  • Violations of security online in terms of exposure of profiles, personal information, outing and threats of outing, plus other threats to privacy.
  • Commercial vulnerability in terms of profiles or content being used by others, deleted, or temporarily turned off by platforms, rendering business precarious and fragile.
  • Economic instability due to the changing nature of policing, the potential for platforms, or work spaces to be closed due to national policing interventions or platform managers changing forum rules/functions/payment system which can impact on sex workers, and the long-term threat from possible changes to legislation such as making it a crime to pay for sex.


We  argue that in the UK there is a legal and policy failure to recognise sex work as a form of employment/self-employment, which contributes to the stigmatisation of sex work and prevents individuals working together. Current UK policy disallows a framework for employment laws and health and safety standards to regulate sex work, leaving sex workers in the shadow economy, their safety at risk in a quasi-legal system.   As ‘Internet sex work’  concludes:

‘The online commercial sex revolution provides opportunities for work, empowerment, flexibility and freedom for some, but equally the concerns over precarity of employment, criminalisation, exploitation and lack of protection  if sex workers become victims of crime. Current laws and continued structurally embedded stigmatisation of sex work means that many online sex workers remain invisible behind the screen, denied access to full labour rights, full citizenship and access to social justice, pushed increasingly by current laws to work behind the screen’. (Sanders et al. 2017)

Rosie Campbell and Teela Sanders

On Behalf of the Beyond the Gaze Team






17th December – International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers #IDEVASW

International Day to end Violence Against Sex Workers is marked every year globally on 17th December.   This day was created to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers and to remember those who have been murdered.   It was originally created by The sex workers outreach project in the US as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the “Green River Killer” in Seattle Washington. It has grown to be a global event, where sex workers, sex work support projects and their allies  come together in towns and cities around the world to remember sex workers who have experienced violence,  to highlight the need for sex worker rights to safety and protection to be respected and enshrined in laws and polices and to challenge stigma, criminalisation and laws which undermine sex worker safety and contribute to violence.   To read more about the day go to:

It’s a day when sex workers, sex worker rights organisations, sex work support projects and their supporters/allies come together to remember victims of violence, call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers & reinforce the message that crimes against sex workers are unacceptable and a violation of sex worker’s rights. 








Matt Valentine-Chase, a researcher in the Beyond the Gaze team,  has produced a short slide show video to mark the day on behalf of the team.  Go to on Facebook to see the video:

On the 17th December and the days near two it lots of events, actions and remembrances are taking place across the globe including in the United Kingdom.  National Ugly Mugs NUM lists some of these on their website:

In solidarity with sex workers  and in remembrance, the Beyond the Gaze Team 17th December 2017.

The Sexual Freedom Awards 2017

The Sexual Freedom Awards ( is in its 23rd year and this year’s ceremony took place on 29th November in London. The awards honour pioneers in the sex, sex education, sex activism and striptease artist industries, as well as their allies. Rosie Campbell and Matt Valentine-Chase of Beyond the Gaze were there to support all of the nominees.


The North was well represented this year with nominations for Beyond the Gaze’s partners Basis Yorkshire ( nominated in the activist of the year category for their work in supporting sex workers and challenging stigma by their evidence based approach that has enabled them to advocate for a change in approach to sex work by Local Authorities and Police. This resulted in improving safety for sex workers in Leeds. Emily Turner of Basis Yorkshire ( was nominated in the ally of the year category for her work in sex worker engagement, challenging stigma and even learning Romanian so that she could better support Romanian speaking sex workers. Emily has worked for Basis for five years and has befriended, advocated for, and defended the rights of over 500 sex workers across Leeds.

Professor Maggie O’Neil, of The University of York and co-founder of the sex work research hub ( (along with Rosie Campbell), was nominated in the ally of the year category for her 30 years in participatory action research and participatory arts methods, giving sex workers a voice and being a passionate advocate for sex worker’s rights.

Dr Kate Lister, of Leeds Trinity University and the sole curator of Whores of Yore ([]  (, a public engagement project that works to make research on sexuality and the history of sex work freely accessible won the Sexual Freedom Award 2017 in the publicist of the year category. Dr Kate Lister is a historian, author and lecturer. Whores of Yore features Kate’s research as well as articles from academics, sex workers, activists, artists, therapists and historians. Kate is an avid supporter of Beyond the Gaze.

Matt Valentine-Chase of Sex Coaching London ( won a Sexual Freedom Award for his work with people with bodies of difference and his 24 years in the sex positive arena. His work enables men and women (including trans men, trans women and intersex men and women) to own their sexuality and enjoy their bodies. Matt is also a researcher for Beyond the Gaze and incorporates this and other participatory action research into his work.

For further info about all  the finalists and the winners go to:

A great night was had and all of the nominees took their well deserved place in being honoured for their dedication to sex positivity, sex worker rights and sexuality education.

Managing The Work-Life Balance In The Sex Industry

Reflections on work-life balance, safety and emotional health for internet sex workers.

By Matt Valentine-Chase

Sex workers experience’s in the industry vary greatly and as such different workers will manage their working lives differently. I am going to try and look at the work-life balance for sex workers from a wide angle, but bear in mind my experience has been mainly working in the independent online sector. Some of the more obvious and industry-standard advice  will be covered in other posts here on Beyond the Gaze and also in the project’s forthcoming safety information and advice  (excited dot com, stay tuned). This post will resonate with some, not others but do remember that sex work is a diverse profession so this is just one way of looking at managing the work-life balance for sex workers, with a little safety stuff thrown in.

It is a common misconception that all sex work is dangerous. If you work in the business, you are probably tired of hearing ‘is that safe?’ ‘Well you make sure you look after yourself’ and the like. It depends where you work in the industry but here we are looking at escorts, cammers, adult performers and doms. One of the main and more frequent obstacles with working in the business is actually the proverbial timewaster, many workers will tell you this, but yes whilst the majority of bookings go without incident some people do target sex workers and commit crimes against them, as Beyond the Gaze found online sex workers particularly reported  digitally facilitated crimes such as threatening or harassing texts, calls or emails.  So safety is important, as it is in other work places and needs to be looked at too.

Safety in the job is more than how you screen and making sure you book the ‘right’ clients. It is also about how we manage our physical and emotional health whilst working and this includes quality down time. Some workers do this by making sure they have set days off, some find peer support helpful, a healthy and helpful leisure life, adequate exercise and pretty much the same activities that any worker (in any business) needs in order to perform well at work and manage stress.

Some workers I have spoken to, and from my own experience in the industry some find that ‘day jobs’ or ‘mainstream jobs’ also help them to balance their working lives. I am taking a risk here but do bare with me, it also helps them to keep one foot in reality (more on this in a moment). Many sex workers understand, sadly, the stigma that comes with the job. This can lead to isolation and what I call internalised whorephobia. This can have a massive impact on how sex workers see themselves and how they fit into society. Let me just reach out to you for a moment and tell you that you do fit into society and you are making a contribution. It’s really important to value the work that you do but yes it is also important to look at the unique challenges that your profession brings.

Sex work can be very unpredictable in many ways. The income can be in abundance one minute and scarce the next. Most people outside of the industry think that escorts (as an example) are rich because of the hourly rates they usually charge. What fewer people know is that sometimes sex workers can go weeks, sometimes months, without a single booking and so the abundant period needs to fund the scarce times too. This unpredictability is often managed really well by the experienced worker and they either learn how to manage this like any other self employed business person and/or they also take on a mainstream job for some security and to keep their sense of reality. Again, I’ve taken a risk so let me tell you why I say this:

Most workers know that a part of sex work is creating a fantasy for the client. It is a beautiful, in my opinion, aspect of the job. There is a certain mystery and secrecy (which isn’t always a good thing but it can be) to the escort-client relationship. Clients in the main trust sex workers. They know that they are professionals and experts in their fields. They understand that confidentiality is a part of the job, no different to any profession where the client is sharing their personal needs and experiences with a professional. From doms (workers who specialise in domination or the full BDSM fetish) to escorts and courtesans (a very high class escort) to strippers and cammers – to most sex work IS work and thus you would follow any protocols and procedures that help you to do your job and to stay as safe as possible. I compare it to being a therapist deciding on whether or not a particular client is right for you. This raises a few eyebrows but often by people who just don’t get it. Right, back to the fantasy…

I love speaking to sex workers and revel in learning more about how different workers manage their work and personal lives. What often comes up is the need to have down time and to disconnect from the fantasy. Sex workers have bills to pay, family to take care of, children to bring up and for some day or other jobs to go to. Some of us can’t do this if our heads are still in the sex work.  So what do some of  us  do? We develop strategies to unplug ourselves from the vibrant, often colourful and sometimes stressful world of the sex industry. We sometimes only do out calls (that takes us away from our home so we can keep that just for us), we rent separate premises for work purposes, we make sure that we do our day jobs on a separate day from our sex work (nothing worse than going to the office with an ‘out call bag’ full of goodies fearful the contents will spill). Many workers who I have spoken to and from my own delightful dance with the sex industry have learned one valuable thing – always remind yourself that the you who goes to work is not necessarily the same you who returns home. I have lost count of how many sex workers have told me ‘you’ve got to separate the two…. It can take over if you don’t… it’s such a full-on job that you have to take care of yourself and remove yourself from it sometimes’. Now, that is possibly no different from any job that is full-on and stressful but for me and  many people I’ve spoken to (not everyone will agree and that’s okay) the fantasy aspect of the job makes it somewhat unique. So to be aware of this – I think is helpful. That is perhaps one of the reasons why some workers choose to do mainstream jobs aside their sex work. It keeps them grounded. There could be another post on juggling mainstream and sex work but I think this is enough for now. I hope it helps and whoever you are and whatever profession you’re in – you’re doing a great job.

Author: Matt Valentine-Chase

Matt is a qualified therapist who coaches and as a former escort he uses his experience in the industry to counsel and support professional sex workers. He is a researcher for Beyond the Gaze and has contributed to the project from its start, advising on design and helped to produce the forthcoming safety and privacy information for sex workers based on the research.

Please note all our blogs are the views of the author/s and do not necessarily represent the views of the Beyond the Gaze Team and the institutions the team are linked to.

Going behind the screen – book based on BtG findings out now!

Out Now ‘Internet Sex Work’- book based on BtG Findings!

A book entitled ‘Internet Sex Work’ based on some of the findings from  Beyond the Gaze participatory action research  project is now published.  It is described by the publishers as establishing the landscape of internet-based sex work and specifically the micro-practices of sex work online, new sex markets, and how the markets are organised and operate. Also as focusing  specifically on how new technologies have re-shaped and re-oriented the sex markets and debating the challenges for regulation.






The  book takes readers behind the screen to uncover how digital technologies have affected the UK sex industry. We have used our BtG  datasets to explore the working practices, safety and regulation of the sex industry, for female, male and trans sex workers primarily working in the UK.  The book explores  how sex workers use the internet in their everyday working lives, appropriating social media, private online spaces and marketing strategies for: marketing, manage their business,  networking  and  support.  The book overviews the digital sexual commerce landscape and  looks at how online and digital technology has facilitated more mobile and fluid forms of sex work across different jobs/services within the online sector, other labour market areas and places. With workers in the sector providing different forms of direct and indirect online sex work, moving between sectors according to need, this flexibility is facilitated by the internet.  ‘Internet sex work’ looks at the importance of  online and digital technology for safety, examining the safety strategies  utilised by workers in this sector and their experiences of crime.  As the the first UK wide study to examine current policing of internet based sex work, the text illustrates how policing has responded to the emergence of the online sector .   The book concludes:

Invisible Behind the Screen!

‘Current laws and continued structurally embedded stigmatisation of sex work means that many online sex workers remain invisible behind the screen, denied access to full labour rights, full citizenship and access to social justice, pushed increasingly by current laws to work behind the screen’. (Sanders, Scoular, Campbell, Pitcher, Cuningham et al. 2017)

Because of the support BtG has had we have collected lots of data, not all of this could be included in the book. Findings based on wider data will be published in a number of other formats: free briefings (look out on the website the end of January 2018 for the first of these), journal articles and blogs.  For example the findings from the survey of customers of online sex workers, which is the largest survey of customers carried out in the UK to date,  is not in the book but will be the focus of one of the free downloadable briefings and will be published via other mediums. We’ll also be sharing findings through selective media.

‘Internet Sex Work’  authors Sander, T., Scoular, J., Campbell, R., Pitcher, J. and Cunningham, S is available from the publishers in ebook and hardcover from:

‘Internet Sex Work’ we hope makes an important empirical contribution to the academic knowledge about sex work as there is little  research about online sex work despite it being the largest sector of the UK sex industry. We hope we are part of a growing number of  academics adopting participatory methods to make online sex work visible in the academic research evidence base.

Dr Rosie Campbell, Researcher, University of Leicester


Beyond the Gaze Research: Launch Event 23rd January 2018


The launch event of  findings from the Beyond the Gaze (BtG) participatory action research project, the largest study to date of UK internet based sex work in the UK took place on 23rd January 2018 at the Holiday Inn, city centre Manchester. The project carried out by researchers at the Universities of Leicester and Strathclyde has been looking at how online and digital technology has impacted on the sex industry and at the working conditions, safety and regulation of internet based sex work in the UK. It has also explored how outreach and health services working with sex workers have responded to the needs of this sector and identified good practice. The event brought together people/practitioners in a range of fields for example health, human rights, social care, sex work, academics, researchers, sex work outreach and support projects, sexual violence services, criminal justice and policing.



The aims of this event were:

To bring together sex workers, sex work projects, health practitioners,other practitioners, sex worker rights organisations, policy makers, academics/researchers, and other stakeholders to share knowledge and learn more about online sex work in the UK.
To showcase findings from BtG during the final dissemination and impact year of the project.
To launch several resources produced by BtG

Program and Activities
There were a range of presentations and workshop all related to internet based sex work, presented not only by the research team but a wide range of speakers. Speakers  included:

  • Professor Teela Sanders (Principal Investigator, University of Leicester), Professor Jane Scoular – (Lead Investigator BtG Uni of Strathclyde), Matt Valentine-Chase (Researcher BTG, Leicester University), Dr Rosie Campbell (Researcher BtG, University of Leicester),  Stewart Cunningham (Researcher BTG, University of Strathclyde), Dr Jane Pitcher (Researcher BTG, University of Strathclyde).
    Laura Lee – sex worker rights campaigner (Sex Worker Alliance Ireland)
    Charlotte Rose – sex worker, sexual trainer & campaigner
    Representative from SAAFE website and forum
    Representatives from Sex Workers Opera
  • Tony Shea, National Ugly Mugs
  • Representative from, English Collective of Prostitutes
  • Detective Sergeant Jill Cowling, Northumbria Police
  • Fergal McCullogh,  The Men’s Room Manchester
  • Gemma Scire, Basis Yorkshire.


Delegates had the opportunity to take part in a range of workshops, with many linked to the findings of Beyond the Gaze. These included the following  topics:

  • Managing duality & stigma in sex work
  • Harassment, online abuse & outing
  • Mapping online sex work and ethical issues researching online sex work
  • Sex Worker’s Opera creative tools for inclusion.
  • Customers of online sex workers
  • Transactions: online sex work issues for transgender sex workers
  • Addressing barriers to online sex worker reporting of crime
  • Navigating the balance between activism and academia’


*Learnt  about headline findings from the largest surveys of UK online sex workers and customers who purchase services within the online sector.
*Learnt what the online sex work terrain looks like in the UK- the types of online spaces which make up the sector.
*Saw the first screening of the new short film informed by findings from BtG in which internet based sex workers speak about working in the online sector, their use online technology in their work & dealing with and challenging stigma.
*Were the first to have access to  five  briefings summarising findings from various aspects of the BtG research. These can be accessed here:
*Heard from sex workers about how the legal situation in the UK  impacts on sex workers.

*Took part in a range of workshop



We will be posting a more detailed report about the event.


Towards good practice for working with online sex workers: support & safety Seminar – 8th November 2017 – Part of ESRC Festival of Social Science


About the seminar & aims: Drawing on preliminary findings from the Beyond the Gaze (a participatory action research project looking at the working conditions, safety and regulation of internet based sex work) this event will:

• Present initial headline findings from Beyond the Gaze (BtG): – specifically, those relating to support and safety.
• Consult on draft ‘Good practice guidance on working with online sex workers’: these are being produced as part of BtG in partnership with National Ugly Mugs (NUM) by a working group from the BtG & NUM ‘Practitioners Forum’, with wider consultation with practitioners/sex workers. The forum has met since September 2015 to support BtG & share learning and practice about working with online sex workers.
• Identify ways the guidance can be disseminated.
• Plan for the BTG & NUM Practitioners Forum after the BtG project.

This event will be interactive and workshop focused, with some short presentations from the research team and members of the BtG & NUM Practitioners Forum. Participants will be involved in commenting on the draft good practice guidance.

ESRC Festival of Social Science: The Department of Criminology, University of Leicester are very pleased to present this seminar as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science taking place 4-11 November 2017. The ESRC have provided funding to support the event. The festival aims to take the social sciences to diverse & new audiences: For more information about the festival go to:

Details & Registration
Date: 8th November 2017 Time: 11-3pm Venue: Leicester University Campus (room TBC)

Who the event is for: the event is for existing members of the BTG & NUM Practitioners forum plus other invited practitioners/sex workers who bring expertise in providing information, advice & support for the sex work community.

Free & refreshments: this is a free event and tea/coffee and lunch will be provided.

Invitation only: Please note this is an invitation only event and anyone who has not been registered with the organiser will not be permitted to attend. If you are interested in attending please contact Dr Rosie Campbell –


Criminalsiation preventing sex workers reporting crime

Several recent media articles have highlighted how the continued criminalisation of various aspects of sex work and policing approaches in some areas are preventing sex workers reporting crimes committed against them. This is clearly illustrated in a recent article by John Owen for the Victorica Derbyshire program published on 5th September Here is the text from his article entitled Violence against sex workers: ‘He was there to kill me’:

Sex workers say they are being left more vulnerable to attack by laws making it illegal for them to share premises for safety, and that they feel unable to report abuse. Two such women have spoken to the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
“I understand I am a sex worker for a living, but I deserve the same human rights as everybody else,” says Suzanne – not her real name.
Born in Romania, she has been a sex worker in Soho, London, for five years.
“Every time I come forward to report violence I end up threatened to be arrested and prosecuted for working in a brothel,” she says.
“Next time I suffer violence, I sure as hell won’t report it.”
Campaigners say this is a familiar story for sex workers, and Suzanne believes in one incident she came close to dying.
It began like a normal arrangement, she explains: “The person came up, discussed the price, agreed a time, and paid.”
But, she continues: “At the time of the service the person just put his hands around my neck. He kept on pressing with one hand on my throat, and punched me in my face until I passed out. I was in agony, I was bleeding. During the attack I lost two teeth.”
She adds: “The person was there to kill me. I was lucky because I passed out, but if I hadn’t he would have done it until I was definitely dead.”
Working illegally
In England and Wales – while the sale and purchase of sexual services between consenting adults is legal – many activities connected with selling sex, such as brothel keeping and soliciting, are illegal.
Suzanne says the law around brothel keeping acts as an incentive for women to work alone in order to avoid prosecution – since if they work collaboratively, they may be charged.
As a result, she says, women are left more vulnerable to attack.
She claims that were it not for the brothel’s receptionist calling the emergency services she may not be alive, and says she will continue to work in a brothel for her safety despite it being illegal.
“I would rather be prosecuted, than die,” she says.

Maria – not her name – says when armed men carrying knives entered the brothel she was working at and stole money, the police were as much interested in the women’s activities as the robbery.
She says the police “asked about the guys that went there – but they were talking more about the work inside of the place, how much money they got, how many girls, how many customers”.
A week later, they received a letter from police.
Maria – originally from Portugal – says it told them they “could go to jail or be deported, because we were working in a brothel”.
She says it is for this reason that many sex workers are reluctant to report incidents of abuse and violence to police.
Because criminal gangs know this, she adds, they deliberately target sex workers who choose to work collectively.
“The police will just see the place where they are working, and just say, ‘Leave’,” she says.

Niki Adams, from campaign group The English Collective of Prostitutes, says such grievances are heard frequently.
“Women know that by going into sex work you’re taking a risk because there is a lot of violence,” she explains.
“[But] at every turn our efforts to keep safe are sabotaged by the law.
“We have heard of many, many situations where women come forward to report violence and instead of the attackers being pursued and prosecuted by the police, sex workers get prosecuted instead.
“That is appalling because when that happens it’s a big deterrent for women to come forward and report violence.”
‘No plans to change law’
In 2016, MPs on the cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee recommended a change in the law “so that soliciting is no longer an offence and so that brothel-keeping provisions allow sex workers to share premises, without losing the ability to prosecute those who use brothels to control or exploit sex workers”.
But the government said it could not introduce the change because “we do not have at present a robust evidence base regarding the scale and nature of prostitution in England and Wales”.
As of September 2017, the Home Office said it had “no plans to change the law around prostitution”.
But, it added: “This government’s priority is to protect those selling sex from harm and exploitation, and target those who exploit vulnerable people involved in prostitution.
“We will continue to work closely with the police, Crown Prosecution Service, other front-line agencies and wider partners to ensure that the current legislation achieves these aims.”

The Metropolitan Police said since 2012 it had “developed strong working relationships with a number of sex worker support agencies and begun to change the way we work with sex workers directly.
“This has seen us realise that taking enforcement action, based on legislation, is not always the best way to support sex workers, who often have complex lives with little or no support around them.”
For Suzanne, a change in legislation needs to come soon.
“I’ve learned working in the sex industry, that a perpetrator will seek to attack someone who is vulnerable, who is not protected by the law.
“And we, as sex workers, are not protected by the law.”
End of Article by John Owen

For sex workers where ever you are in the UK who for whatever reason do not report crimes to the police you can report in confidence to National Ugly Mugs or to Ugly Mugs Ireland

New research finds changing trends in sex worker homicide

The UK Sex Worker Homicide Database: An Analysis

by Stewart Cunningham, Teela Sanders, Lucy Platt, Pippa Grenfell, Pg Macioti

As part of a Wellcome Trust funded project on ‘reviewing the occupational risks of sex workers in comparison to other ‘risky’ professions: mental ill-health, violence and murder’ we undertook analysis of a database of sex worker homicide in the UK between 1990 – 2016.  While we cannot say with certainty that the database constitutes a record of absolutely all sex worker homicide in the UK we believe that it may be the most accurate existing resource on the subject given its proximity to the sex worker community and those with on the ground knowledge (it is currently held by National Ugly Mugs and was previously updated by Hilary Kinnell and then Shelly Stoops on behalf of UKNSWP).


We decided to classify the homicides based on whether the victim was killed in the course of work to better identify instances of occupational or work-related homicide. The database records 180 sex worker homicides between 1990 and 2016 and of these we classified 110 victims as being killed in the course of work, 37 of the homicides as being non-work related and in 33 of the cases we were unable to classify based on a lack of information.  We conducted more detailed analysis on the 110 cases of known occupational homicide.


Cis-gendered women represented the vast majority of victims (n=105) of occupational homicide with two cis-gendered male victims and three trans women victims.  The vast majority of homicide victims were street based sex workers (n=85) with a smaller number (n=24) of victims who worked indoors (work setting not known for one victim).  The trends around work sector have, however, changed quite dramatically since 2010.  Between 1990 and 1999, 85% (n=28) of sex work occupational homicide was committed against street based sex workers.  The overall numbers of homicides increased significantly in 2000 to 2009 but the percentage of street based victims remained the same at 85% (n=50).  Between 2010 and 2016, however, this pattern has reversed and there are now more indoor sex workers killed (59%, n=10) than street based sex workers (41%, n=7).  This could, in part, reflect the changing working practices for sex workers with the rise of internet facilitated indoor working resulting in a significant decline in street based sex working.


The vast majority of victims (where ethnicity and nationality were known, n=100) were of white British ethnicity (n=77, 77%) with white Eastern European victims the next largest group (n=9, 9%).  There were smaller numbers of mixed race (n=6), Black (n=5) and Asian (n=2) victims of various national identities.  The proportion of homicide victims that have a migration background has increased in recent years.  In the 20 years between 1990 and 1999 only 6% (n=5) of sex work occupational homicide victims (where nationality/migration status is known) were migrants compared to 94% (n=77) who were British born. Since 2010 the proportion of migrant victims has dramatically increased to 50% (n=8), exactly the same number of British born victims.  This may be reflective of changes in the overall makeup of the sex industry with increasing numbers of migrant workers and/or suggest that offenders are specifically targeting migrants because of their potentially increased vulnerability.


The solve rate for sex worker occupational homicide improved substantially in the 2000s and since 2006 every single case has been solved with the offender convicted.  It is also important to note that this current decade has the lowest number of sex worker homicides on record since the database was created.  Between 2010 and 2016, 27 sex workers were murdered in total (17 while working) compared to 91 (60 while working) in 2000 – 2009 and 62 (33 while working) in 1990 – 1999.


Analysis of the homicide database shows changing trends in sex worker homicide with victims now being more likely to work indoors than on the street and also increasing numbers of migrant sex worker being targeted.  Future research on sex worker homicide must consider the social and legal contexts in which sex work takes place and how this may impact on vulnerability to homicide.  Legal change though cannot occur in isolation and much has to be done to challenge and counter the, still pervasive, stigma that exists against sex workers, making them so vulnerable to all forms of violence, including homicide.  Only with a combination of anti-stigma work alongside meaningful legal and policy change that prioritizes sex worker safety can there be any hope of addressing the tragedy of sex worker homicide

The briefing papers can be found here:



European Society of Criminology Conference 2017 – 13th-15th September, Cardiff University


Prof. Teela Sanders (Dept. of Criminology, University of Leicester) from the BtG team is presenting at the 2017 European Society of Criminology Conference, taking place on 13th 15th September at Cardiff University. This presentation she will be making draws on one element of another research project she is involved with, funded by the Wellcome Trust being carried out with researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Teela is presenting on behalf of the team which consists of Stewart Cunningham (Leicester University), Lucy Platt, Pippa Grenfell & PG Macioti (all of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) . The paper she will deliver is called ‘Trends in Homicide Against Sex Workers in the UK’ and it will present an up-to-data analysis of the UK sex worker murder database held at the National Ugly Mugs scheme, which consists of 180 individuals over a 26 year period between 1990 – 2016. Within this database the research sampled for occupational homicide specifically examining those people who were killed during the course of their work. It will explore the trends in victims targeted in relation to sex market, migrant status, making comparisons between those work worked on street and those indoors. The paper surmises that patterns of victimhood are changing in line with the broader changes in the sex industry. It will also look briefly at conviction and sentencing patterns with the limited data we have to suggest that investigations into sex worker homicides are increasingly successful. The research also makes comparisons with some other ‘risky’ professions to examine the highest risks of mortality for certain occupations, suggesting that sex work is amongst the highest.

For more info about the conference itself including how to register go to: