South West Wales

Safer Wales project to protect sex workers in Swansea

A girl approaching a car Image copyright PA
Image caption Safer Wales said many sex workers are struggling with violence, exploitation and homelessness which limits their ability to choose another way of life

A charity which works to protect vulnerable sex workers is launching a project in Swansea.

Safer Wales' StreetLife project has been operating in Cardiff since 2007 and has transformed the lives of many women trapped in prostitution.

It also encourages women to report cases of violence and abuse, which has led to "hundreds of prosecutions".

Saturday's launch coincides with International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

It highlights the risks sex workers are exposed to every time they take a job.

"We should be focusing our attention on the plight these women are facing and finding ways to support and protect them, not alienating them even further from society," said Bernie Bowen-Thomson, co-chief executive of Safer Wales.

Image copyright Safer Wales
Image caption Ms Bowen-Thomson said: "We must remember that these women are real people - someone's mother, sister, daughter or friend"

StreetLife works with local authorities, the NHS and other partners. Its van goes out with volunteers a few times a week and offers women support, advice and access to services.

They also run a scheme called Ugly Mugs, where women can report violence. Perpetrators are either described in detail or drawn into an e-fit and compiled for other women to be made aware of them.

The project has been running successfully in Cardiff and is now launching in Swansea, where the charity said there were a growing number of sex workers "who are desperately in need of support," and are often struggling with mental and physical illness.

Ms Bowen-Thomson said: "We want to help more women and we are currently looking at rolling the project out across other big cities in Wales.

"But without more awareness and understanding of the real route of the problem - sexual exploitation at the hands of others - we won't be able to raise the funds and the volunteers we need."

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