7th June issue

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 Cloaking device

Why prejudice is obscuring basic support

THERE HAVE BEEN 14 MURDERS OF SEX WORKERS since the Ipswich cases four years ago. The cost of initiatives to improve sex workers’ safety is a drop in the ocean compared to the millions of pounds spent on a murder investigation, so why have the dreadful events in Bradford been allowed to happen? The interview with Shelly Stoops (page 6) is illuminating. Not only does it remind us of the appalling stigma that gets in the way of communicating with women involved with this profession, it also provides highly sustainable arguments for the economics of prevention. Sadly, many outside this field won’t look as far as the economics, because the label ‘prostitute’ will categorise the subject before they’ve read as far as the bit about the grieving family. But if they do, they will start to understand that quite apart from the much needed compassion there is a strong financial case for reviewing the laws around sex work – laws that force women to put themselves at risk by working alone in dangerous surroundings. The Home Office has been funding Shelly’s post as independent sexual violence advisor – a post renewable year on year – because it fitted the ‘ensuring justice’ strand of the government’s 2006 prostitution strategy. Let’s hope that the new government is steadfast in building on this modest start. The theme of support networks comes up again in our second women-themed feature (page 10), which touches on the isolation many women feel when substance misuse gets in the way of running family life effectively. Once again, it was roundly agreed that services need to be accessible and non-judgemental before they have a hope of making contact that might lead to successful interventions. Accessibility of services failed spectacularly for Scott, as his mother describes in the wake of her heartbreaking loss (page 12). There are so many ‘whys’ for Maureen – let’s hope the questions reach out-of-hours services.

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