Women in Dundee are being forced into prostitution to feed their children and heat their homes because of the “hoops and barriers” of applying for benefits.
Heather Williams, the new manager of Dundee’s Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Charity (WRASAC), said there had been an increase in the number of women turning to both on-street and off-street prostitution.
Heather said: “One of the growing reasons for this is the hoops and barriers that women have to overcome to apply for benefits including Universal Credit (UC).
“For a woman living a chaotic lifestyle it can be very difficult to access facilities to apply for UC and on the regular basis necessary.
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“To apply for UC you need access to a computer which can be very difficult for many women.
“Women may find themselves homeless or they can have mental health or drug addiction issues.
“These can make it very difficult for them to sustain regularly being able to fill in benefit forms.
“As a result women are turning to prostitution as a means of survival. They have families to feed and homes to heat.
“In some cases they have an addiction to feed but the main reason they prostitute themselves is survival.
“For many it is easier to turn to prostitution to find money. There is a definite increase in street prostitution as a result.
“However, we are also seeing an increase in prostitution behind closed doors.”
Heather said for many women they felt there was no choice.
All of those turning to a life of sex work, Heather says, are becoming increasingly vulnerable and also subjected to higher levels of violence.
Heather has blamed easier access to pornographic websites for some of the disgusting treatment women on the streets are living with.
Sex workers are being choked and in some cases forced into “violent” sex by those taking up their services.
Heather added: “There is nothing glamorous about prostitution. Women are being exploited and face many dangers and difficulties.
“An increase in the use of more extreme pornography is leading to violence against women becoming ever more extreme.
“Access to online pornography is easier than ever. There is also an increase in levels of violence depicted in pornography.
“Men are watching this and then engaging in ever more violent acts against the women.
“These men believe they are paying for a commodity when they buy sex, the result being they believe they have a right to do anything they want to the women.
“The obvious danger is that women will end up dead. There have already been several instances of this happening.”
At the end of last year, WRASAC announced it was being forced to drop its Vice Versa project, which provides protection and advice for women in prostitution, due to lack of funding.
But Heather said funding had now been provided to continue the service until June 2020 and they were fighting to secure funding to continue even longer.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “We’re committed to providing a safety net for the most vulnerable in society and urge anyone who feels they need support to contact us.
“Anyone can access support at their Jobcentre, online or on the phone.
“People claiming UC can access 100% advance payments from day one of a claim.
“Other support includes continuing to pay housing benefit for two weeks as people move from the old system.”