The SWAN Project – Swansea Women’s Aid

Since August 2018, Swansea Women’s Aid has been supporting women in the sex industry via our SWAN (Support, Wellbeing, Advocacy & eNablement) project. Our outreach provision supports women selling sex on the streets, and this has proven to be some of the most challenging and rewarding work we do.

“Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world” wrote Rudyard Kipling in his 1899 short story On The City Wall. This phrase has worked its way into the English language and is now synonymous with sex working.

Here at Swansea Women’s Aid, we do not view sex work as a “profession” but a Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) issue, recognising that the women we work with are some of the most vulnerable in society due to their life experience and the daily abuse and violence they face.

Interest from the press can be salacious and sensationalist, failing to take into account that the women partaking in this activity have often been sorely let down by society.

We recently conducted a survey into the driving forces for women selling sex on the street and out of 31 respondents, 20 said they did so to fund their own drug habit, with 8 also saying they did it to fund their own and their partner’s drug habit.

Many of the women we work with suffer from Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder from previous trauma and adverse childhood experiences and drugs-predominantly heroin and crack cocaine- are used as a coping mechanism. Despite this, they are not perceived as a priority need when seeking housing, are not fast tracked for substance misuse support and face endless waiting lists for effective trauma counselling.

In the run up to Christmas, we are providing an outreach service three evenings a week and would welcome donations. You can donate via PayPal here or check out our social media where we frequently update the items we are in need of.

In the longer term, we would like more of a light shone on this area of work. There are currently only three projects in Wales supporting women in the sex industry and yet the women supported are some of the most vulnerable and marginalised women in society.