More sex workers seeking help from charity
THERE has been a sharp rise in the number of prostitutes turning to charities for help.
And more women are claiming they were brought here against their will by international sex traffickers.
New figures from the charity Ruhama, the main aid body for sex workers, show it helped almost 200 women last year -- up from 161 in 2008.
But Ruhama said this was just the tip of the iceberg. Many more women are trapped in the illegal industry against their will, it claimed.
About one in three of the women Ruhama helped were trafficked into Ireland from other countries.
Chief executive Sarah Benson said similar experiences were reported by all of the women involved in prostitution. "Women in 2009 reported horrific levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse," she said.
"The reporting of rape and sexual assault was almost universal; many women also experienced sexual abuse as children and young women; some were groomed by family members and partners into prostitution.
"Women reported having been punched in the face and the stomach; being kicked down stairs; beaten for refusing to have sex with men; being locked in and refused food; being burned; being bitten.
"Women were told by buyers that they were 'ugly', 'not very good', that they 'should at least try to look like you're enjoying it' while their bodies are used in whatever way the buyer wishes."
The charity helped 66 women who had been trafficked into Ireland -- 26 for the first time.
Most of these new cases (19) had been trafficked straight into Ireland, while seven others had escaped from the UK, Italy and France and ended up here.
Two of those helped were teenagers when they were brought to Ireland.
Nearly half of the women brought into the country were from Nigeria, with the majority now located in Dublin.
The agency complained that it had seen a drop in funding of about 20pc, though demand for services had increased. Ruhama chairman Diarmuid O Corrbui appealed for donations from the public.
"We want to be able to continue to support these women and develop our services, but we are seriously restricted by the funding available to us," he said.
The charity worked with 59 women through its outreach initiative last year and 137 women through its more intensive casework service, where each person is assigned a caseworker and a care plan.
An 'outreach' van is operated by the charity, in which women working in red-light districts can sit down and meet with workers.