Facts About Prostitution

“In 1974, police estimated there were 400,000 prostitutes in Thailand, procured primarily for the U.S. military on R & R from the Vietnam War. As of 1993, an unofficial estimate is that there are 2 million prostitutes in Thailand, whose national economy is dependent on tourism. Prostitution is the largest commodity for the 450,000 Thai men who purchase prostitutes daily as well as for a large percentage of the 5.4 million tourists a year who arrive in Thailand for sex tours per year.” (Kathleen Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality, 1995, New York, New York University Press).

Women trapped in prostitution are mothers, daughters and sisters. They suffer from sexually transmitted diseases, as well as other related illnesses including acute anxiety, depression, insomnia, flashbacks, and emotional numbing. Coping mechanisms may include alcohol, drugs, mental breakdown, suicide, self-mutilation, and abortion. An alarming number of the women were abused in their past, making them vulnerable to further exploitation.

In the United States, prostitution is often considered a victimless crime, even though most girls start between the ages of 12 and 14. According to federal law, any minor under the age of 18 engaged in commercial sex constitutes human trafficking.

“The experience of prostitution is the experience of being repeatedly sexually assaulted, being dominated, battered, and terrorized (Melissa Farley and Norma Hotaling). The Council for Prostitution Alternatives has reported that prostituted women were raped approximately once a week (Hunter, 1994).

The following statistics are results from a study by Melissa Farley and Norma Hotaling of 130 prostitutes in San Francisco (75% women):

  • 82% reported physical assaults in prostitution;
  • 88% reported physical threats in prostitution;
  • 83% had been threatened with a weapon in prostitution;
  • 68% had been raped in prostitution.
  • 78% expressed the need for a safe place to go
  • 84% reported current or past homelessness
  • 88% expressed a desire to get out of prostitution;
  • 73% expressed a desire for job training;
  • 67% stated a need for drug or alcohol treatment.


Studies show that 55% to 90% of prostitutes report a history of sexual abuse as children and 41% of 130 prostitutes met criteria for a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis. (The incidence of current PTSD in male Vietnam veterans is 15%-35% for high war zone exposure.)

Like combat veterans, women in prostitution suffer from PTSD, a psychological reaction to extreme physical and emotional trauma. Symptoms are acute anxiety, depression, insomnia, irritability, flashbacks, emotional numbing, and being in a state of emotional and physical hyperalertness. 67% of those in prostitution from 5 countries met criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD “ a rate similar to that of battered women, rape victims, and state-sponsored torture survivors. (Melissa Farley, Isin Baral, Merab Kiremire, Ufuk Sezgin, “Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence and Post traumatic Stress Disorder” (1998) Feminism & Psychology 8 (4): 405-426

A Canadian Report on Prostitution and Pornography found that women and girls in prostitution had a mortality rate 40 times higher than the national average (Baldwin, 1993).

It’s estimated that 50-80% of sex industry workers are or will be HIV positive. Young people ages 15-24 account for half of all of the 2.5 million new HIV infections each year.

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