Behind the label

The sex industry is made up of a diverse group of people; it includes people of all ages and socio-economic groups, male and female, UK and non-UK born residents. They work from saunas, massage parlours, brothels, flats, hotels, escort agencies, clubs, on the streets, as well as through the internet, with cards placed in shop windows or via their mobile phone.  Yet no matter where they are working, most people in the sex industry will face a daily risk of violence and exploitation.  It is unknown how many people are working in the sex industry or have been trafficked, but we do know that it affects people in every town and city in the United Kingdom.

When you’re working you shut yourself off and so you think it doesn’t really affect you, whilst you’re doing it you just think about what you’re going to spend the money on or something else… But really, after a while, it chips away at you.
— Emma*, 28 years old (*pseudonym to protect her identity)

 

No child dreams of working in the sex industry when they grow up. People enter the sex industry for many different reasons. In our experience the minority would say that they enter it freely. For many people who enter the sex industry as an adult it is as a matter of survival; often due to financial need, to sustain an addiction, homelessness, lack of opportunity, or complex vulnerabilities, while some people are coerced or forced. For other people they may have been exploited in the sex industry since they were children.  

Whatever the entry route in to the sex industry there is a very real story behind every single person.

There are many tales of tragic loss, lack, abuse and pain. The majority of people that we work with fear being judged or labelled for their involvement in the sex industry, and this sense of shame can prevent them from building friendships with people in the community and seeking help from statutory services. For people who have been trafficked, the lack of personal freedom makes them even more 'invisible', inaccessible and isolated. 

When I go in to work it’s like a terrible dread that comes over me because as I’ve got older I don’t really want to do this, but I don’t have a choice. The day I never have to take my drawers off to pay my bills will be the best day.
— Alison*, 59 years old (*pseudonym to protect her identity)

Recovery is often a long process.  Building or re-building trust, processing trauma, and starting a new life takes time, but we believe in the power of prayer and faith. Through this journey we include Christian based values and guidance within our work when requested, in an inclusive and sensitive way. 

The people that we have had the privilege of working alongside have displayed incredible strength, dignity and courage, and they have each taught us so much as they have dared to believe that there is hope and that "nothing is impossible". 

Charis exists to give people in the sex industry the opportunity for choice again (where so many of their choices have previously been taken from them); a choice to exit if they wish, and a choice to rebuild a new life as they would choose to live it.