Women's Rights

Women’s Work (Lyndsey’s Blog Part 4) : The vicious circle of drug addiction

There is one lady who I know who has been a sex-worker since 2005, and she has been on a long personal journey. She has repeatedly left one partner, got another one. They didn’t like her taking drugs or working on the streets….and they all basically beat her every day….

If they’ve come from one relationship, and someone’s controlled them, they sometimes look for someone who is “bigger and badder” than the person that they’ve left…so that the new perpetrator can protect them from the old one. It’s from the ‘frying pan into the fire’ and they’re gravitating towards the same kind of person. And because their self-esteem is so low they think it’s all that they’re worth…

We will speak to them about the scenario that they’re in, getting out of this cycle, and we can help them change things for the better. Sometimes the prospect of that is more frightening than staying with someone who beats you every day. Strangely, the guy gives them some level of security.

If you’ve not had the nurturing, the love, and development that goes with good parenting, then there is a potential for a problem. The mother of one sex-worker I know is a business woman, she’s got 3 companies and is very successful. But the woman in question didn’t have much in the way of nurturing because her mother was always busy. She had a couple of husbands, and there was no stability. She told me that it was at about the age of 13 that she started to run away from home for short periods. This is where the self-esteem problems could start.

Lots of women I’ve met over the years have come from “good backgrounds” and not from the stereotypical deprived upbringing that many women experience, but they’ve both ended up in the same situation. I’ve known 3 women whose mothers were head mistresses – it could be any form of hidden abuse. It can be that no one has time to listen to them so they assume that no one is interested in them, and nobody cares, so ‘why should I care?’

Many women we see, do struggle with the issue of self-worth.  They say “what’s the point in getting clean?”. It could also lead to street sex-work which will put their self-esteem even further down. They have no self-belief, they don’t think they’re worthy of anything. They don’t ask for help as they don’t think they’re worth the time …it can be that bad. A big part of our job is encouraging them to think that they are somebody, with value, and a lovely  person who has a lot to give.  They don’t see it! Some have so many talented gifts – it’s unbelievable. In another world , another life – they could be  a musician, teacher, doctor , or whatever…and they haven’t had people around them to support and motivate them. They probably never really had those relationships.

It’s about stability in your whole life – if you can’t hold down a tenancy, because of drugs or your lifestyle, then you don’t have a base. We’re dealing with women who have lived in 20,30, 40 properties and crack houses and they don’t have that base. Any money that they do earn from ,mainly sex work, is ring-fenced for drugs. We can help them with getting into housing and we work with Derventio on a limited basis, but it is down to whether the service user wants to change and engage in the programme. A few have, but they are the minority. Usually it’s the ones who are not on heroin or are not street sex workers who cope best.  It’s not that they don’t have the desire to get clean, and a reasonably normal life, but the draw of the addiction is so massive that it holds them back. There are many factors which can prevent someone making progress and I always tell the service users that there is an organisation in Derby who can help with any substance abuse or any problem.  It’s just about getting on with it and having the motivation – and that is the biggest hurdle.  The biggest issue that keeps them down is “What do I do when I get there? What do I do when I get clean? Who am I? Who was I? Where did I start from?” If you’ve been sexually abused at the age of 5 or 6 and you’re coming out at 35 and you’ve known nothing else all your life, then it is a scary prospect and requires a whole package of support.

Staying on the sex-work and drugs is “normal”.

If they get clean and try and get a job and then are asked ‘what have you been doing since you left school?’, then they have a problem. They’d need an employer who’s been down that route, or known someone in that situation, or they’re prepared to give someone a chance. The chances are slim.

When the going gets tough you revert back to what you know. Women have said to me “what’s the point in getting clean ….because it’s hard when you are”.  It’s a vicious circle.

Categories: Women's Rights

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