What is Sexual Exploitation?

An international issue, sexual exploitation is defined by the United Nations as “transactional sex,” or “solicitation of transactional sex,” in an “exploitative relationship.” Women in prostitution and adult entertainment fall into this category because of their vulnerability and involvement in high-risk transactional work.  In the case of the women we serve, most work in strip clubs or are engaged in street-level prostitution, and a few are involved in online escorting.

Although each woman we work with has a unique story, there are often similar underlying issues: childhood sexual abuse, substance abuse, homelessness and violence.  Many turned to the sex industry to support young children -- losing custody as they become more and more entrenched in the lifestyle.  Low self-esteem leads sexually exploited women to believe their only worth is in what they can offer men.

Statistics show there are many risks for those involved in transactional sex:

  • Seventy percent of adult women in prostitution in one study stated that childhood sexual assault was responsible for their entry into prostitution (Silbert and Pines 1981, 1983)

  • An occupational survey noted that 99% of women in prostitution were victims of violence, with more frequent injuries “than workers in [those] occupations considered ... most dangerous, like mining, forestry and fire fighting” (Gibbs, Sydie, and Krull 2000, 47)

  • The greater the woman’s poverty, the greater the violence she experiences, and the longer she is in prostitution, the more likely she is to experience violence (Giobbe 1991a; Vanwesenbeeck 1994)

  • Women in prostitution are murdered at a higher rate than any other group of women ever studied.

  • Dissociative disorders, depression, and other mood disorders are common among prostituted women in street, escort, and strip club prostitution. (https://www.journals.uchicago. edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/695670)