Comments Off on Underage sex workers leading ‘unsafe’ lives, including Methamphetamine use

Underage Auckland sex workers are taking methamphetamine and selling sex at night, then attending school during the day as ‘normal’ teens, a study has revealed.

Interviews carried out with 10 sex workers aged between 12 and 16 uncovered some startling information about their unsafe and extreme lives.

Auckland University student Natalie Thorburn carried out the interviews for her Masters of Social Work – distributing flyers offering a promise of $40 and anonymity.

Children she spoke to told her of their lives on Auckland’s back streets selling sex, often in unsafe circumstances.

Many were the victims of sexual abuse and none were protected by the Prostitution Law Reform Act, she says.

During the interviews and research Ms Thorburn says she found a sad set of recurring themes in her subjects.

“For a lot of them they attended school while they were 12 to 15 but were also going out all night to sell sex and take methamphetamine on the streets of Auckland.

“The norm for these participants was having a background of significant deprivation and quite chaotic family structures.”

However one girl had quite a ‘normal’ life, attending a decile 10 school and achieving highly “but was going out all night to do sex work and then coming home and putting on her school uniform”.

A couple of the children’s families knew what they were doing, but didn’t intervene, Ms Thorburn says.

But she points out it’s not always realistic for the parents and family to fix these issues themselves, as they are often battling mental health and drug addictions, as well as severe economic deprivation.

“It makes me angry on behalf of the children, angry that the child doesn’t have a better community.

“It’s not that the families didn’t care, it’s that they actually didn’t have the capacity to care for these kids. And the communities were turning a blind eye, so the schools didn’t notice.”

She wondered how someone could go to school every day while coming down off methamphetamine, having been out doing sex work the night before, and no one notice.

Some of the children told Ms Thorburn they were abused by the very organizations set up to assist them, including claims of sexual exploitation and sexual assault.

Such instances forced the children to return to the street and shun any future assistance, she says.

“My usual stance on sex work is from a women’s rights and prostitutes’ rights point of view – but that doesn’t really apply to someone who is 12, powerless, and in a state of desperation and fear.

“These girls were participating in prostitution after childhoods where their bodies had been hired out for sex or been used by adults for sexual purposes.”

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