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Many said that if someone had intervened in this situa- tion when they were experiencing it as children or if they would have received counseling or other help for these experiences, they would not be where they are today.

“And maybe with my father putting his hands on my mother, because maybe I wouldn’t have thought it was right for someone to do it to me.”

Of all women surveyed, only one person reported having stayed at a domestic violence shelter in the past, al- though up to 70 percent of all women reported having been a survivor of some form of domestic violence. The results indicate that many women are trapped in cycles of violence and abuse from childhood to adulthood. Women who had survived such forms of violence also had higher rates of substance use and abuse and of emotional and mental health issues. Furthermore, 10 percent of women reported that a partner prevented them from being employed, and 16 percent could not access substance abuse treatment because a partner prevented it.

Women involved in prostitution reported surviving even higher levels of violence than other women did, and many were snared at young ages. These women had more problems with substance abuse and emotional and mental health. Prolonged exposure to violence, common among all women in jail and more common among those who are homeless and in prostitution, often results in severe physical, emotional, and psychological trauma with long-term effects. According to Melissa Farley Ph.D, founder and clinical psychologist at Prostitution Research and Education in San Francisco, California, at least 66 percent of women in prostitution suffer from post- traumatic stress disorder.

“I needed compassion and someone to tell me I could leave.”

The acceptance of the constant presence of violence, or at least tacit acceptance of the normalcy of abuse or violence, follows the women into their teen and adult years. Many women surveyed noted that they were unable to get needed help when they were in abusive


relationships or trying to leave those relationships. To be independent enough to leave—and survive—they needed help that was not only emotional but also financial and physical in terms of housing and jobs.

Women in prostitution and others who survive prolonged exposure to violence need assistance that specifically helps them address the subsequent trauma. To deal with past violence and regain a sense of security, women need access to safe housing options and to long-term support and benefits.

RECOMMENDATION: Increase resources in jail to assist women address the trauma and other effects of violence. Immediately upon release women should have a safe place to go and be linked to community based survivor supports.


“Education in the elementary schools ... let them know what’s happening in the streets.”

Several women stated that if they had received more drug education in their teen years, before they started using drugs, they would not have ever started. In addition to early education, many women stated that they see a need for more accessible, inpatient drug treatment programs. The decision to get off drugs can be very tenuous, and treatment beds need to be easily accessible and open. Additionally, these programs need to be available when the help is needed. There are far too few beds and far too many women on waiting lists.

According to the women surveyed, waiting lists and lack of sufficient services are a huge barrier to getting assis- tance. Additionally, while living in the state of chaos that typifies “normal” life for many of the detained women, they experience frequent crises. Service provision sys- tems need to be coordinated and responsive to immedi- ate needs and able to offer immediate assistance.

“[There need to be] more programs where you can get help when you take drugs. No waiting lists [so] you can get help when you are ready.”

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