This presentation was given at the 2018 Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Global Summit hosted by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. (EndExploitationSummit.com)
Mahri Irvine, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professorial Lecturer, American University, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program
The vast majority of women in prostitution have experienced sexual violence or intimate partner violence, and they often have histories of child sexual abuse. Based on qualitative life history research with formerly and currently incarcerated women, this presentation provides evidence of direct causative connections between women’s histories of child sexual abuse and their entries into prostitution. This presentation provides ample opportunities to learn directly from these women, featuring direct quotes from in-depth interviews. Using several case studies, this presentation addresses the psychological and interpersonal impact of child sexual abuse, illustrating how sexual violence during girls’ early formative years has profound power to shape their perceptions about themselves, relationships between men and women, and social norms. In rejection of the neoliberal claim that prostitution is an empowering choice for women, this presentation provides evidence of how prostitution is very often a continuation of the sexual violence that many women are forced to endure beginning in early childhood.