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Statistics on Prostitution

By Vancouver Rape Relief Collective
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The following are highlights from four relevant studies on prostitution.


A study about head injury on 65 women and transwomen in supportive programs for exiting prostitution in San Francisco, Chicago, and Toronto found the following data:

36% of the women began prostitution before age 18.

Of the 65 women, 95% had sustained head injuries at some time during their lives, either by being hit in the head with objects (89%) and/or having their heads shoved into objects (74%).

The women who had been hit with objects had been hit in the head with hands or fists, bottles, bats, sticks, hammers, guns, telephones, canes, screwdrivers, belts, rocks, bed slats, steel tubes, and ash trays.

The women who had had their heads shoved into objects had been shoved into walls, slammed into floors; against dashboards, steering wheels, or windows of cars; against furniture or sinks; against other people; or against vehicles, buildings, doors, or stairs.

Of the 65 women, 40 (61%) had sustained head injuries during prostitution.
The women described the following symptoms: depressed mood (77%), poor concentration (64%), memory problems (64%), poor information retention (57%), difficulty in following directions (41%), problems with new learning (39%), and confusion (36%.) Descriptions of the nature of the cognitive problems included, “I need a rough draft to go on,” “I forget in midstream,” “information comes and goes,” “I can’t seem to concentrate on anything,” and “difficulty in completing things.” 27% of the interviewees complained of difficulty understanding abstract concepts.

Source: “Screening for Traumatic Brain Injury in Prostituted Women,” Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence: Vol. 3 (2018) 


A study done in Quebec countries and interviewed 109 women who were currently or recently in prostitution at the time found the following data:

Half of the women entered prostitution before the age of 19. Many of them were first sexually exploited when they were younger than 14.

Needing money was the main reason that women entered into prostitution, sometimes coupled with addiction and/or homelessness.

62% of the women experienced violence during their childhoods, and more than half of them were victims of incest (raped by their father or another male family member.)

81% of all the women who were still in prostitution, and 95% of those in street prostitution, wanted to exit.

Out of those who were no longer in prostitution, 32 had experienced threats or pressure to stay in prostitution by their pimps and escort agency owners or employees, drug dealers, or johns.

For many women (77%), getting help from support organizations was important in their exiting process.

Source: la CLES, Connaître les besoins des femmes dans l’industrie du sexe pour mieux baliser les services (2014)

In a study with 17 women who attended a drop-in program for women engaged in prostitution in a low-income Baltimore City neighborhood, all participants reported traumatic events, most typically physical or sexual violence. Most of the women experienced childhood physical and sexual abuse and physical and sexual violence as adults, including assaults that occurred while they engaged in prostitution.

All participants described prostitution as something that they felt they were coerced to do. Whether forced by relatives or partners, economic survival, or addiction, they explained prostitution was not a profession or activity they would have chosen had they believed that realistic alternatives existed.

Source: Crime and compassion: Women in prostitution at the intersection of criminality and victimization, Sage Publication (2012)

A study done in 9 countries (including Canada) interviewed 854 people who were currently or recently in prostitution at the time, found the following data:

71% were physically assaulted in prostitution

63% were raped in prostitution

89% wanted to escape prostitution but did not have other options for survival

68% met criteria for PTSD

Source: Prostitution & Trafficking in Nine Countries: An Update on Violence and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (2003)


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