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11. PROSTITUTION: A VIOLENT REALITY

Of all women surveyed, 34 percent said they were regularly involved in prostitution (defined as two times or more a week); 41 percent said they had prostituted at least once. Of those who reported to have had prostitu- tion experiences, 54 percent said they did so within 30 days of entering Cook County Jail. NOTE: Possibly due to privacy and stigma many women were reluctant to reveal their involvement in prostitution. Thus these numbers might be undercounts.

For purposes of this survey, forms of prostitution include street-level prostitution, stripping, escort services, massage parlors, sex tours, trafficking, pornography, and prostitution for survival.

Chart 20: PROSTITUTION EXPERIENCES

Prostituted for money

41%

30%

Prostituted for a gift

19%

13%

Prostituted for drugs/alcohol

29%

23%

17%

Prostituted for a meal

12%

Prostituted for a place to stay

22% 20%

Key:

Ever involved in prostitution Regularly involed in prostitution (2 times a week or more)

ENTRY INTO PROSTITUTION AS YOUTH AND CHILDREN

Many women reported becoming involved in prostitution at a young age. The median age of entry into prostitution of those surveyed is 20. Of those involved in prostitution, 36 percent started before the age of 18.

14 UNLOCKING OPTIONS FOR WOMEN

31%

33%

18-24 years old

25 years or older

Chart 21: AGE OF ENTRY INTO PROSTITUTION

21%

15%

14-17 years old

13 years old and younger

REASONS FOR ENTRY INTO PROSTITUTION

“Because I was molested, homeless, needed things that I needed to survive, and was too young to work and did not know another way.

(Statement by woman when asked why she first got involved in prostitution.)

The reasons for initial involvement in prostitution varied. The two most common reasons reported were for sur- vival needs such as shelter and taking care of children and/or to support a drug habit. Other responses included childhood abuse, prostitution being common in the environment in which they were raised, survival need after running away from home, and pressure from a boyfriend.

PROSTITUTION AND REPEAT INCARCERATION

Women involved in prostitution reported higher rates of detention in county jail than did those who were not regularly involved in prostitution: 42 percent had been in jail more than six times, 43 percent two to five times, and just 15 percent only once. Forty-four percent said that they have been arrested for prostitution in the past.

PROSTITUTION AND HOMELESSNESS

A majority (58 percent) of women who stated they were homeless in the 30 days prior to entering Cook County Jail reported being regularly involved in prostitution. Of those, 26 percent regularly prostituted for a place to stay. Thirty-one percent of women who said they were regu- larly involved in prostitution had experienced homelessness before the age of 18.

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