Aspire supports women, typically over the age of 25, who are subject to or at risk of sexual exploitation. This includes women involved in street-based prostitution and/or the wider sex industry, and also women who more generally face multiple disadvantage and have ‘complex’ unmet needs.
The women we support are often considered too ‘complex’ or ‘high risk’ to be supported by mainstream, single-issue focussed services. We are able to offer them our flexible, holistic approach which supports them emotionally and practically across a range of issues that may be impacting them simultaneously. We’re able to act as the lead professional, providing case coordination across a number of agencies, resulting in less overwhelm for the women.
From speaking with women involved in prostitution, we know that common routes in often involve:
- Experience of the care system
- Childhood abuse, including domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and childhood sexual exploitation (CSE)
- Trauma related mental health issues
- Having not ‘achieved’ at school and/or in employment (often interlinked with childhood trauma and/or learning disability)
- Criminalisation through the justice system
- Substance use (often to cope with trauma)
- Repeated victimisation as adults- domestic abuse, coercive control, sexual violence, exploitation, trafficking
- Separation from family and missing out on positive support networks
Therefore, we recognise that many women with ‘multiple complex needs’ are at risk of sexual exploitation. We also know that for women already involved in the sex industry, these same issues can act as barriers to exiting, should this be what they want.
As part of our 2022-25 Strategy, we made a commitment to be explicitly asking all women involved in the sex industry if they would like support to exit.
Our approach is rooted in a critique of the institution of the sex industry, from a Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) perspective, and places no moralistic judgement on the women we support.
In 2022, we supported 129 women through Aspire. Using the Empowerment Star to track impact, the figures below identify the proportion of women who have maintained or improved their position on the star.
- 88%: understanding their rights, and how to access legal support/advice
- 78%: able to find a place to live and maintain a tenancy
- 75%: recognise risks and keep themselves safe
- 75%: levels of confidence and self-esteem
- 71%: taking care of their health and wellbeing
- 69%: children are safe from abuse
- 64%: ability to manage their money
- 62%: developed positive support networks
- 60%: independence and choice around work and learning
£30 could pay for an hour of 1-2-1 support for a woman to recover from trauma, overcome barriers, and work towards their goals. You can donate here today.