Changing Lives has recently published a research report investigating the hidden sex industry in Darlington and Durham, commissioned by the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). The charity trained three women involved in sex work to become peer researchers to uncover the truth about an industry that many say doesn't exist because it is not visible. Throughout the course of the research, Changing Lives worked with 20 women to produce the report.

Changing Lives’ peer-led study – ‘The Type of Girl That Would Do That’ – sets out to understand the nature of sex work in County Durham and Darlington, and to examine interactions between sex workers and the services that they are likely to come into contact with. The study focuses on female sex work, however it also uncovers some anecdotal evidence of male sex work in these areas.

Using the successful structure and methodology of Changing Lives’ Girls Are Proud (GAP) project, the study identified and trained three women, who were themselves engaged in sex work, to interview and gather data from their peers.

Although there is a lack of a visible ‘red light district’ in these areas, this does not equate to the lack of a sex industry, or mean that sexual exploitation does not therefore occur. All but one of the women interviewed noted that sex work in Durham and Darlington is hidden.

“Some people say… that ‘prostitution’ has that stereotypical old age view point, but then will also say things like, ‘sex work’…like it’s people’s own choice, [that] they want to do it and it’s the profession that they want to do and [that] it doesn’t [involve] exploitation”

The sex industry in these areas does not rely on street-working, but rather women are more likely to sell sex to drug dealers, advertise in newspapers or on-line, pick up men opportunistically in pubs, or exchange sex for drugs, alcohol or accommodation.

Twenty women were interviewed in this study. An internet search using a popular adult site showed over two hundred people (male and female) advertising sexual services in County Durham and Darlington in just a single day. This figure is still likely to underestimate the amount of sex work in the area, due to its hidden nature.

This report examines in detail these twenty women’s experiences in the sex industry and engaging with services such as health clinics and the police force, as well as talking to professionals who work in these services to gain a greater understanding of their awareness and knowledge in the sex industry in their areas.

Click the link below to read the full report.

Please note, this report contains information of an adult nature and is recommended for over 18’s only.

Durham and Darlington Sex Work – Peer Research by Changing Lives (PDF)

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