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The Relationship Between Adult Sexual Assault and Prostitution: An Exploratory Analysis

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Previous research has established a link between childhood sexual abuse and engaging in prostitution as an adult. The purpose of this study was to extend this literature by exploring whether being raped as an adult is associated with exchanging sex for money. Interviews with 102 rape survivors in a major metropolitan area revealed that 23.5% had engaged in prostitution post-rape. Those who had exchanged sex for money were more likely to be women of color, to have a high school education or less, to be unemployed, and to have children to support, than those who had not engaged in prostitution post-assault. The prostitution subsample also had significantly higher levels of psychological distress, physical health symptomatology, and substance use. Survivors were asked whether and how the rape was associated with engaging in prostitution: most (75%) stated that they felt it was related to the assault. The most commonly cited reason for engaging in prostitution by these survivors was that they were trying to regain some control over their lives and their bodies; exchanging sex for money was seen as one way to control men's access to them. Implications for future research on victimization and prostitution are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2003

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