Asked on the website Ask.fm if she would report an abusive client, one sex worker replied, “For the majority of areas I would say no. Never. I’ve done it before and it was pointless and I got in more trouble than the person who hurt me.”
Prostitutes cite a number of reasons for their reluctance to go to the police, including the belief that their testimony isn’t taken seriously and concern that the authorities would target them instead.
That’s not unfounded. When an east London brothel was held up in a violent robbery by an armed gang in 2011, police appeared more interested in shutting the establishment down than pursuing the robbers.
After two other brothels were subsequently attacked by the same gang, they decided not report the incident to police, according to a 2012 report.
Crimes against sex workers often aren’t fully investigated unless perpetrators begin to target people outside of the sex trade.
In 2010, a 22-year-old man named Sunny Islam forced a 15-year-old girl into his car at knifepoint from an east London street, drove her to a secluded spot and raped her.
When police investigated her report, they discovered three previous cases with similar details. All of the victims were sex workers, none of whose cases had been fully investigated. Islam was convicted in August 2011 on seven counts of rape.