Stress disorder among prostitutes

Stress disorder among prostitutes

Seeking to examine prostitution as violation of human rights, the Prostitution and Research Education project of San Francisco’s Women’s Centers conducted a study documenting that about two-thirds of prostitutes suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sufferers can experience depression, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, flashbacks, and nightmares. The researchers compared the women’s PTSD symptoms to those of Vietnam veterans. The study included surveys of 475 prostitutes in the United States, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Zambia.

The dangers inherent in being a prostitute include rape (reported by 62 percent of the women); assault (73 percent); and being threatened with a weapon (68 percent). Julie Bindel of the Research Centre on Violence, Abuse and Gender Relations at Leeds Metropolitan Universit in Great Britain found that “significantly more physical violence in street, as opposed to brothel, prostitution, there was no difference in the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder. . . . This suggests that psychological trauma is intrinsic to the act of prostitution.”

The incidence of PTSD was similar across cultural and national borders among the women participating in the study. “Prostitution as a stressor far outweighs the effects of race and cultural differences. These findings suggest that the harm of prostitution is not a culture-bound phenomenon,” noted the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Melissa Farley from Kaiser Permanente.

Bindel commented that, “prostitution is an extremely dangerous thing to do. It involves violence and abuse, and fundamentally effects the woman or child who is prostituted.” She said the research was significant because of its contributions towards “demythologising” prostitution.

Of the women surveyed, 92 percent said they wanted to get out of prostitution but needed access to basic needs such as shelter, job training, and drug and alcohol treatment programs. Farley indicated “ft]here’s an extremely high incidence of homelessness in this population of people. That says to me, if you want shelter and food you allow yourself to be sexually assaulted. There’s an appearance of choice, but it doesn’t feel like it once you’re in it.”

-BBC News and Yahoo News, 8/19/98

Copyright Off Our Backs, Inc. Oct 1998

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