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Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Life for UK sex workers revealed

1Xtra has spoken to prostitutes, the people who try to help them and those who pay for their services to find out what it's really like to work on the UK's streets in a new documentary.

Women on the streets
Drug or money problems are common reasons why people turn to prostitution

One in 10 men admit to paying for it. And there are around 80,000 people willing to sell sex in the UK.

1Xtra has been speaking to people like Jenny. She works the streets of Derby.

"I was walking down the road and he was following me," she explained, describing one incident.

"He asked me for business and I said no, next thing I got a bash to the head, he had a bottle, and he kept bashing it into my head.

"There's been points where I've just felt like walking in front of a bus, it's been that bad."

Despite getting attacked by clients Jenny says she's got no choice but to carry on working as a prostitute, as she's addicted to heroin.

"I was having anxiety attacks and someone offered heroin to me, so I took it," she said. "It calmed me down a little bit so I kept taking it."

Leanne started out on the streets for the same reason.

"I went into depression and then I thought that's something that would lift me up," she recounted, "so that's when I started taking heroin.

"Then because of that I thought, 'Right, I'll have to go and work on the streets and make the money so I could afford it'."

'Won't report rape'

Dionne Reid runs a drop-in centre for prostitutes in Derby. She says violent attacks are common.

"It just becomes normal," she explained. "Their self-esteem becomes so low they just accept that things like this happen, often they won't report rape or violence towards them.
Paying for sex
It is thought one in 10 men have paid for sex

"It's not just the fact that they thought they shouldn't bother, it's more the attitudes they got when they did go to report when they revealed they were a sex worker."

Most sex workers here are women, but lots of men do it as well.

Oliver - not his real name - started selling sex as a teenager.

"I was actually on the tube," he said. "This bloke kept looking at me, and I kept looking at him, I didn't fancy him.

"He followed me out of the tube station, we got chatting and I said, 'If you want sex you're going to have to pay for it'."

No typical client

It's thought around one in 10 men in the UK have paid for sex. Jenny says in her experience there's no such thing as a typical client.

"I've had some that are quite nice well-to-do people, normal men, you wouldn't think twice that they do that, but it's only business."

One man was prepared to say why he pays for sex.

"The first time I visited sex workers was when I'd just come out of a long-term relationship, didn't want to get into another one, and the easiest way for sex was to pay for it.

"A man's needs is a man's needs, [I] needed sex, that was the easiest way out.

"I don't feel ashamed of paying for sex at all, it suits me, it suits my lifestyle, [I] don't want a permanent relationship at the moment and it's the best way around it."

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