Attacks on Capital's vulnerable vice girls double in two years

A FORMER prostitute today told how it had become too dangerous to work Edinburgh's streets as new figures showed an increasing number of attacks on the city's sex workers.

The 39-year-old said she had quit after being held at knife point and sexually assaulted, and blamed new kerb-crawling laws for increasing violence.

Ten prostitutes were raped in Edinburgh between January and September this year, more than double the number of rapes reported in 2006 – the year before the new legislation was introduced.

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Figures released by support charity Scot-Pep to coincide with the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers revealed the number of reported attacks on prostitutes almost doubled between 2006 and 2007, from 66 to 126, while there were 92 attacks in the first nine months of this year alone.

Former prostitute Joanne – whose name has been changed to protect her identity – worked on Salamander Street and Salamander Place for the best part of a decade until she was sexually assaulted last year.

It followed an incident earlier that year where a man pulled a knife on her in a car to try to rob her night's earnings.

She was attacked while working on Salamander Place by a man in Edinburgh on a stag night.

She said: "What happened put me off severely. I went on a methadone programme after that and was helped through Streetwork's women's team.

"It took months and months after being told about the chance of rehab before I decided on it. You have to get to the level where you reach rock bottom first."

Although Joanne reported the attempted robbery to police, she did not report the sexual assault as she was already on her second caution and did not want to be arrested.

Scot-Pep said this was one of the main reasons behind the "immense under-reporting" amongst street workers.

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Ruth Morgan Thomas, project manager for the charity, said there was "not a night goes by" where support workers in Leith did not hear of an attack taking place.

She said: "There has been a dramatic increase in attacks since the kerb-crawling legislation came into force.

"The legislation has, to a certain extent, been successful in that some men have chosen not to seek to purchase sex in public places.

"However, we have not invested significantly in the alternatives and what we are left with now is women who have to work longer hours and take more risks.

"The reality is that men who are not put off by the thought of having a conviction for seeking to purchase sex are more likely to be those men who are prepared to rape or assault women."

Joanne, who was forced into prostitution after getting addicted to heroin when she was 26, said women were putting themselves into dangerous situations every day due to the new laws.

Prostitutes are having to take risks and meet men in secluded industrial estates and give out phone numbers to make money.

Joanne, who first started drinking and taking drugs at the age of 11 while growing up in care homes in Edinburgh, said: "

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At least if you see them first in a car, you can decide whether you want to get in. You get a lot of wrong ones – more often than not they're wrong ones."

Lothian and Borders Police said they encourage all victims of crime to report incidents.

Chief Inspector Denise Mulvaney said: "Lothian and Borders are committed to engaging and working with other agencies to ensure that avenues are open to those workers who wish to route themselves out of prostitution."

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