Trafficked female sex workers awaiting deportation: comparison with brothel workers
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In 2002, we researched the psychosocial characteristics of 55 women working in the commercial brothel-based sex industry in three Israeli cities. This previous social epidemiological study focused exclusively on women working in brothels and the brothel owners consented to their interviews, suggesting that this might be a sample of the most organized brothels with the best social conditions. We therefore decided to study a second sample obtained by different referral methods. The sample consisted of 49 women in a detention center who are awaiting judicial hearings for deportation. This prison sample of sex workers is strikingly similar to the previously studied sample of sex workers working in brothels in terms of demographic features and working conditions. A higher percentage of the prison sample reported depression and somatic symptoms. However, this finding is consistent with a reaction to being arrested and awaiting deportation. Guided by a life course perspective, in the combined sample, we examined whether early exposure to trauma, motherhood and early entry into sex work affected current health and mental health. Those who were mothers were likely to have entered sex work at a later age but no other aspect of their working conditions differed from the non-mothers suggesting that motherhood per se did not appreciably change the experience of these mostly trafficked women sex workers. Early exposure to trauma increased the likelihood for work-related trauma, poor health and mental health outcomes.
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