We know that lots of women who access One25 services have experienced trauma as a child – in childhood – and then they go on to experience multiple traumas as an adult. We know that women involved in street sex work are taking drugs to manage the trauma they’ve experienced. It can be really difficult for them to access mental health support while they are actively using drugs.
The experiences of street sex-working women are unique in terms of the amount of sexual violence they experience, the levels of trauma that they’ve experienced and the stigma around being involved in street sex work and how people feel about judgement. So to be in a group with other women who have shared those experiences gives women the best to chance – to feel comfortable, to openly talk about what they’ve been through.
One of the women said “It was really nice to be offered something different and to have that opportunity to take part in something that nobody had been offered before.” What was so amazing about this study is it gave women that opportunity to have trauma treatment even though they weren’t abstinent from drugs and they were still having that ongoing drug treatment which made it really unique.
There were 11 women from One25 who took part in the DUSSK study and four of them went on to have specialist trauma treatment which isn’t something that is widely available to street sex-working women.
One woman who took part in the study said “The PTS treatment is a way of, like, sort of detoxing your brain. So, you know, finding the reason why you do these drugs – to sort of be the reason for me to say ‘Well, I’ve got to stop now, you know, and get off it.’”
The women who took part in the treatment all had varying, different experiences and outcomes but it gave them an opportunity to receive trauma treatment that they would never have been offered before. And it gave them a chance to think about the trauma that they’d experienced and how it had affected their lives and how it had impacted on their substance misuse which was really, really valuable for them.
The study demonstrates that we have to enable people who are using substances to have some kind of treatment around their mental health. We can’t wait for people to stop using drugs always – because that’s not always possible for them because they’re self-medicating extreme levels of emotional pain. So we have think about something different – we have to try and offer something different. It was also really important to hold the drug treatment sessions at One25 in an environment where street sex workers feel comfortable – in a female-only setting that’s trauma informed.
So this was an amazing example of the partnership work that we have with people in the city. Particular special thanks to Dr Nikki Jeal who knows One25 really well, already had a relationship with the women and was the perfect person to lead on this study. We worked really closely with BDP and DHI around the drug treatment groups, with AWP around the specialist trauma treatment and the University of Bristol around how to approach this feasibility study and make it safe for the women to take part in. It was brilliant!