British Journal of Social Work (2009) 39, 1118–1137
doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcm157 Advance Access publication February 29, 2008
Working Girls: Abuse or Choice in StreetLevel Sex Work? A Study of Homeless Women in Nottingham
Rachel Harding and Paul Hamilton
Correspondence to Rachel Harding, Framework Housing Association, Maville House, Beech Avenue, Nottingham NG7 7LS, UK. E-mail: email@example.com Correspondence to Paul Hamilton, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BU, UK. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This paper uses fifteen indices of abuse and a definition of ‘coercion’ as ‘constraint, restraint, compulsion; the application of force to control the action of a voluntary agent’ (OED Online, 2006) to explore how homeless women understand their choice to sex work. Twenty-six homeless women were interviewed, nine of whom had sex worked. A structured, qualitative questionnaire was used in a case study design from which information was gathered about the relationship between a woman’s experience of abuse and coercion and her decision to sex work. By exploring the motivations given by women as to why they sex worked, it is argued that homeless women’s decisions are, in part, a consequence of systemic familial abuse and coercion from abusive partners. However, in responding to the complex needs of such women, it is also suggested that ‘abuse’ and ‘coercion’ should not routinely equate to ‘victimhood’. Consequently, our findings challenge the homogeneous approach to ‘victimization’ as demonstrated within the government’s Prostitution Strategy (Home Office, 2006a). Subsequent recommendations are made for social work practice in the context of the Strategy when working with abused and coerced homeless women who choose to sex work. Keywords: working girls, homeless women, sex work, prostitution strategy, victim
Sex workers, prostitutes or ‘working girls’? Why language matters
The research presented here consciously...