Today (14th July 2020) we, along with our partners on the STAGE Project are meeting with a group of MPs and decision-makers to discuss the links between housing and homelessness, Covid-19 and sexual exploitation.
This influential group is chaired by Jess Phillips MP, Shadow Domestic Violence and Safeguarding Minister and is made up of MPs and experts including Dame Louise Casey, Caroline Nokes MP, Baroness Hilary Armstrong, Chi Onwurah MP, Catherine McKinnell MP, Sarah Champion MP, Louise Haigh MP, Kate Davies OBE, Cris McCurley, Rosie Lewis and Professor Jo Phoenix.
Together, we will be discussing some of the findings from the STAGE Project so far, which include:
- That grooming of girls and women for purposes of sexual exploitation is systemic and systematic, yet there is no statutory responsibility for public services to support women who are adult survivors of sexual exploitation.
- The devastating long-term impacts on women have only been magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic, who now have access to even fewer resources and sources of support. Many have found themselves destitute as a result of Covid-19, leading to them becoming involved in ‘survival sex’ for the first time, or returning to selling sex. We are also seeing adverse impacts on women’s physical and mental health, including a significant increase in suicide attempts and self-harm.
- There is an inextricable link between homelessness, housing and sexual exploitation. Women experiencing sexual exploitation often find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle, whereby their experiences of homelessness or living in unsuitable accommodation increases their vulnerability to sexual exploitation, yet when they seek to change their circumstances they are met with responses that are not trauma-informed, inadequate referral pathways and multiple barriers to accessing housing that is appropriate for their needs. As a result, they once again find themselves at increased risk of further exploitation.
We will also be presenting our recommendations, for how we can improve housing support for adult survivors of sexual exploitation. These include:
- Calling on Government to create a national framework for adult survivors of sexual exploitation, recognising the links between housing, homelessness and S.E.
- Ensuring that adult survivors of sexual exploitation are given automatic priority need for housing, helping to break the vicious cycle of homelessness and exploitation.
- Asking commissioners to recognised the need for long-term support for adult survivors of sexual exploitation, including: housing-led models of support; trauma-informed spaces; and self-contained, women-only accommodation options for women who have experienced sexual exploitation.
You can read our full briefing on Improving Housing Support for Adult Survivors of Sexual Exploitation by downloading it here.