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Community Safety

Men who buy sex targeted as part of International Women’s Day

Men who buy sex from women involved in street based prostitution are being targeted by vice operations led by Lambeth Council and Lambeth Police.

The crackdown against men who approach women involved in prostitution will target areas of the borough where prostitution is of concern. It will be led by the Safer Lambeth Partnership, which includes Lambeth Council and Lambeth Met Police.

The vice operations coincide with International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 8. The borough-wide clampdown is part of Lambeth Council’s hard-hitting campaign ‘Thinking of Buying Sex, Think Again’, and forms part of the Safer Lambeth Partnership’s Violence Against Women and Girls strategy (VAWG).

No woman should be sexually exploited, abused, and demeaned, and women are often involved in prostitution because of their need to fund drug habits. There is overwhelming evidence that the money which women make from prostitution goes straight into the hands of drug dealers. Women’s accounts of involvement in street prostitution are harrowing and involve a range of abusive behaviour by men.

Lambeth Council Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Cllr Rachel Heywood, said:

“Violence, experience of abuse, homelessness, poverty and drugs are at the root of street prostitution in Lambeth. I want to be absolutely clear, exploitation, violence, and sexual assault against women and girls is abhorrent and we will do everything in our power to support victims of this crime and bring perpetrators to justice.”

She added: “This is a top priority for the council and our nationally recognised work shows we are determined to prevent violence or sexual assault against women and girls. This is about reaching out to the community to let people know there is a network of help and support available to them.”

Lambeth Met Police Superintendent Andy Howe, added:

“Street prostitution is not a choice of occupation for those involved. They are all extremely vulnerable women, many very young, who have fallen into prostitution as a last resort. The vast majority are drug addicts who sell their bodies for the next fix. They live in a world of violence, misery and deprivation.”

Lambeth Met Police are working hand in hand with the Local Authority to tackle the causes of prostitution while offering support to the vulnerable women involved. The campaign ‘Thinking of buying sex, think again’ delivers a clear message that people who use the services of prostitutes will be identified, arrested and prosecuted”.

Our approach to prostitution is clear – prostitution is a form of violence against women and girls and sexual exploitation. As part of our strategy we are committed to not only eliminating street prostitution through targeting those who buy sex through the ‘Thinking of Buying Sex?

Think Again’ campaign and tough enforcement actions , but also to providing support to, and opportunities for, women involved in prostitution their children, and their families.

The campaign aims to send a clear message that buying sex is unacceptable, to minimise the harm done to women, reduce the number of women entering prostitution, and increasing the number who leave.

We recognise the complex issues surrounding prostitution and the need for public agencies to work together to address the situation in Lambeth. In order to meet these needs we have re-commissioned the Gaia Centre to address all aspects of the Violence Against Women and Girls strands. The centre now handles the eight strands of the VAWG strategy: prostitution, domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, trafficking, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and crimes said to be committed in the name of honour.

The Gaia Centre will work in partnership with Trust (see case study within editors’ notes) and Spires, our two established partners who have been providing a high quality support service to women who are involved in prostitution for significant amount of time.

Following an open tender process Refuge was awarded the contract to run the new and innovative service which was launched in January. The centre is one of the first of its kind in England providing a holistic and integrated support service. The Gaia Centre now works with females aged 14 +, men aged 16+ and their children and provides specialist support around all forms of gender based violence, which includes:

  • One-to-one support for all survivors of gender-based violence
  • A sanctuary scheme to support survivors to stay safe at home
  • Group support
  • A peer support scheme to enable survivors to become more independent and regain control of their lives
  • Volunteering opportunities

Refuge’s Chief Executive, Sandra Horley CBE said:

“Refuge opened the world’s first refuge in 1971. We have been developing and pioneering services across the country ever since and we are delighted to have opened the Gaia Centre this year. This unique project will offer support to a wide range of individuals who have experienced violence and abuse and will also offer those who want to play their part in speaking out against violence a chance to get involved. Refuge is delighted to be running the new Gaia Centre and to have the opportunity to provide far-reaching and innovative services to such a broad range of survivors of gender-based violence.”

Diane Martin, Director of Trust, added:

“As a specialist service, we fully support Lambeth’s understanding of the realities of prostitution, asserting prostitution as violence against women, resulting in a no tolerance approach to kerb crawlers and a diversion approach for women to exit exploitation, addiction and abuse. We are proud to be delivering support in a forward thinking borough that seeks to get to the root causes of issues in a holistic way that benefits the whole of our Lambeth community.”

To contact the Gaia Centre to access support or to make a referral telephone 020 7733 8724, email lambethvawg@refuge.org.uk or visit http://www.refuge.org.uk/Gaia. For further information about the Gaia Centre service contact Nicole Jacobs, Gaia Senior Operations Manager, Nicole_jacobs@refuge.org.uk For further information about the Safer Lambeth Partnership’s Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy contact Jade Holvey, VAWG Programme Manager, Lambeth Council, jholvey@lambeth.gov.uk or visit http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/domesticviolence

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