Farley / HARMS OF PROSTITUTION
HEALTH EFFECTS OF VIOLENCE IN PROSTITUTION
Throughout history, regardless of its legal status, prostitution has had a devastating impact on women’s health. In 1858, Sanger asked 2,000 prostitutes in New York about their health and con- cluded that premature old age was the invariable result of prosti- tution (as cited in Benjamin & Masters, 1964). Sanger described conditions of despair, degradation, decline, and early death among prostitutes who survived on average only four years af- ter entry into prostitution. A physician, he wondered how they lasted that long (Benjamin & Masters, 1964). Making the same observation in the parlance of today’s global marketplace, an anonymous pimp commented on the “brief shelf life” of a girl in prostitution.
Pheterson (1996) summarized the health problems of women in prostitution: exhaustion, frequent viral illness, STDs, vaginal infections, back aches, sleeplessness, depression, headaches, stomachaches, and eating disorders. Women who were used by more customers in prostitution reported more severe physical symptoms (Vanwesenbeeck, 1994). A Canadian commission found that the death rate of women in prostitution was 40 times higher than that of the general population (Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution, 1985). A mortality survey of more than 1,600 women in U.S. prostitution noted that “no population of women studied previously has had a . . . percentage of deaths due to murder even approximating those observed in our cohort” (Potterat et al., 2004, p. 783). In this survey, murder accounted for 50% of the deaths of women in prostitution. Reviewing compara- ble studies, Potterat et al. (2004) noted that murder accounted for between 29% and 100% of all prostituted women’s reported deaths in Birmingham, UK; Nairobi, Vancouver, Canada; and London.
Cervical cancer is common among women who have been in prostitution. Two risk factors for cervical cancer are young age at first sexual activity and overall number of sexual partners. Prostituted women have an increased risk of cervical cancer and also chronic hepatitis (Chattopadhyay, Bandyopadhyay, & Duttagupta, 1994; de Sanjose et al., 1993; Nakashima et al., 1996; Pelzer, Duncan, Tibaux, & Mehari, 1992). In a Minnesota study,