Life After Prostitution
Potterat and colleagues (1990) found that female prostitutes stay in the life for a relatively short time, usually 4 or 5 years. Some feel ready to leave, whereas others are forced out because of a deteriorating physical appearance or because of addiction to drugs or alcohol. Life after prostitution is often grim because most prostitutes have little money and few skills (which is why they turned to prostitution in the first place; Farley et al., 2003). In addition, there is usually little to show for the years they spent prostituting. Some seek psychotherapy as a way to handle leaving prostitution, and others spend a great deal of time in and out of prison for shoplifting or robbery.
Research has found that many prostitutes are raped and physically assaulted as a result of their work. One study found that between 60% and 75% of female prostitutes were raped, whereas 70% to 95% were physically assaulted (U. S. Department of State, 2005). Overall, 68% qualified for a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder. As a result, some resort to suicide as a way out.
Even so, there is a lot of disagreement about whether or not mandatory treatment programs should exist for prostitutes. If a person voluntarily chooses to engage in prostitution and he or she does not feel it is a problem, should the government require that he or she undergo treatment? Even if it were possible to make prostitutes stop prostituting, few resources are available for them to establish a similarly salaried occupation (Rio,
1991) . We need to evaluate how to best help a prostitute if he or she decides to stop prostituting. Also, because we have learned that the backgrounds of many prostitutes include a history of sexual abuse, familial violence, and alcohol abuse, perhaps we can offer intervention early on to help these people find alternative ways to make a living.