Violence against women in sex work and HIV risk implications differ qualitatively by perpetrator.
Decker, Michele R.
Illangasekare, Samantha L.
Sherman, Susan G.
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BACKGROUND: Physical and sexual violence heighten STI/HIV risk for women in sex work. Against this backdrop, we describe the nature of abuse against women in sex work, and its STI/HIV implications, across perpetrators. METHODS: Adult women involved in sex work (n = 35) in Baltimore, MD participated in an in-depth interview and brief survey. RESULTS: Physical and sexual violence were prevalent, with 43% reporting past-month abuse. Clients were the primary perpetrators; their violence was severe, compromised women's condom and sexual negotiation, and included forced and coerced anal intercourse. Sex work was a factor in intimate partner violence. Police abuse was largely an exploitation of power imbalances for coerced sex. CONCLUSIONS: Findings affirm the need to address physical and sexual violence, particularly that perpetrated by clients, as a social determinant of health for women in sex work, as well as a threat to safety and wellbeing, and a contextual barrier to HIV risk reduction.