Maria was referred to an Encompass network service by her GP. She was 30 at the time.
Maria became involved in prostitution when she was a graduate student. She had worked in other temporary jobs but struggled to get enough hours to help pay her bills.
She had read a lot about prostitution online before she started and thought she was quite clued in to what the sex industry was like. She met with other women involved in prostitution at uni and sought their advice on starting out.
Maria signed up with an escort agency and that day was seeing clients. She found that she did not have a say in whom she had to have sex with. She originally only wanted to see one punter a day but the agency put her under pressure to see more and more clients as she was popular.
She enjoyed the attention and was relived she was able to afford her bills and have some savings.
The escort agency took a large cut from her money and she also had to pay a driver to take her to out call bookings. One night she refused to have sex with a punter who wanted unprotected sex and the agency manger threatened to stop giving her bookings and withholding her money.
She moved to working in a sauna / brothel as she thought it would be easier to work set shifts. She had told her friends and family what she was doing and they were supportive but concerned. Maria had reassured them that she was in control and was choosing to be involved in the sex industry.
She didn't like the set up and felt that the women there were made to compete with each other for punters. Whilst she was told she could refuse a punter, she felt under pressure not to and ended up with clients who were rough and disrespectful. The manager threatened her and she was regularly fined for not wearing the right clothes or for having a cigarette between punters. She also hated the long shifts and even when she had made enough money and wanted to go home – she had to stay and have sex with more punters until her shift was up.
After 6 months, Maria realised her mental health was being affected and found herself struggling to cope. She felt very isolated from her family and unable to speak to friends who were also involved in prostitution. She felt she was letting them down when she had spoken to them about wanting to exit. She contacted an organisation she had heard on the radio but they were not able to offer any support or help to leave the industry exit.
She eventually went to her GP to get anti-depressants and they gave her information on an Encompass Service. She was assigned a case worker who met with her twice a week and linked her in with other organisations and also spent time working on Marias confidence and self esteem.
Maria is linked in with a woman's organisation and is starting on a volunteer training programme. She is also studying counselling part time and hopes to work with other women in the sex industry.