Violence against women in sex work and HIV risk implications differ qualitatively by perpetrator

Michele R. Decker, Erin Pearson, Samantha L. Illangasekare, Erin Clark, Susan G. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number876
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • HIV risk
  • Sex work
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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