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Is Prostitution a Job?

Some say prostitution is a job like any other. But is it?

The research and testimonies of survivors reveal that prostitution is not a “job” but a form of violence against those sold for sex.

Studies conducted worldwide consistently show that those in prostitution suffer from physical and sexual assault at alarming levels.

One of the largest studies conducted on prostitution, published in the Journal of Trauma Practice, surveyed 854 prostituted women in nine countries. It concluded that 63% of women in prostitution were raped, 71% were physically assaulted, and 68% met the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder in the same range as treatment-seeking combat veterans and victims of state-organized torture.[1] [2]

One researcher said the “job” of prostitution means accepting the fact that you'd get raped once per week on average.[3]

A report in the British Medical Journal about client violence towards women in prostitution stated that half of the women interviewed had experienced being slapped, punched, beaten, robbed, threatened with a weapon, held against their will, strangled, kidnapped, and/or raped.[4] Another study showed that women who’ve worked in prostitution exhibit the same rate of traumatic brain injury as is documented in torture survivors.[5]

  • [1] Farley, Melissa et al. (2003). "Prostitution and Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder." Journal of Trauma Practice, Vol. 2, No. 3/4: 33-74; and Farley, Melissa. ed. 2003. Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress. Haworth Press, New York.
  • [2] Ramsay, R. et. al. 1993. "Psychiatric morbidity in survivors of organized state violence including torture." British Journal of Psychiatry. 162:55-59.
  • [3] Hunter, S. K. (1993). Prostitution is cruelty and abuse to women and children. Michigan Journal of Gender and Law, 1, 1-14.
  • [4] Violence by clients towards female prostitutes in different work settings: questionnaire survey, Stephanie Church et al in BMJ (2001);322:524-525
  • [5] Jacobs, U., & Iacopino, V. (2001). “Torture and its consequences: A challenge to clinical neuropsychology.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32, 458-464.

It’s an issue of life and death.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology of over 1600 women in U.S. prostitution revealed that “no population of women studied previously had the percentage of deaths due to murder even approximating those observed in our cohort.”[6] In the survey, murder accounted for 50% of the deaths of women in prostitution.

  • [6] J. Potterat, D. Brewer, S. Muth, R. Rothenberg, D. Woodhouse, J. Muth, H. Stite, and S. Brody, “Mortality in a Long-term Open Cohort of Prostitute Women,” American Journal of Epidemiology 159:778–785, (2004). Longitudinal study of prostitution in Colorado Springs – sample size: 1,969 people in prostitution from 1967-1999.

Related Podcasts

Learn more about prostitution

  • Additional footnotes from video
  • [7] UK Home Office (2004) Solutions and Strategies: Drug Problems and Street Sex Markets: London: UK Government
  • [8] Raymond, J., D’Cunha, J., Dzuhayatin, S. R., Hynes, H. P., Ramirez Rodriguez, Z., & Santos, A. (2002). “A comparative study of women trafficked in the migration process: Patterns, profiles and health consequences of sexual exploitation in five countries (Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Venezuela and the United States)”. N. Amherst, MA: Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW). Retrieved March 15, 2003, from
  • [9] Vanwesenbeeck, I. (1994) Prostitutes' Well-Being and Risk. VU University Press, Amsterdam.
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