Most Dutch sex workers face violence: report

The vast majority of people who work in the Netherlands' sex industry face some form of violence, mostly from customers, according to a study by Aidsfonds, Soa Aids Nederland and sex workers' interest group Proud, Het Parool reports. 

A massive 93 percent of sex workers report being victims of social-emotional violence like bullying, privacy violations or stalking. 78 percent experienced sexual violence. 60 percent fell victim to physical violence, ranging from hair pulling to aggravated assault. 58 percent told the researchers they faced financial-economic violence, ranging from customers stealing from them or refusing to pay, to being refused at banks or insurance companies because of their line of work. Only 20 percent reported these incidents to the police.

For this study the researchers questioned 300 sex workers, spread across the country and diverse in terms of gender, age, work experience and background.

Since the brothel ban was lifted in the Netherlands in 2000, prostitution is legal, but still subject to licensing. Unlicensed sex workers are considerably more at risk of violence, the researchers found. Massage salons and hotel rooms are the least safe places to work for sex workers, while private homes or window brothels are safer.

According to the study, Dutch legislation and policy on sex work are not aimed at protecting sex workers, instead having negative consequences for their safety. The only way to reduce violence in the sex industry is to lower the threshold for sex workers to report abuse, and to recognize sex workers as a professional group, the researchers say.