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Though misconceptions about prostitution often lead to mistreatment in hospitals and law enforcement, in Worcester, that story is slowly changing. Officials and community leaders say that the city is increasingly looking at prostitution as a public health issue, rather than a moral failing. Nationwide, women are much more likely to be punished for charging for sex than men are for buying it.

Between andprostituted women were around twice as likely to be arrested than the men paying for sex with them, according to statistics from the U. Bureau of Justice. But recent data show that Worcester is starting to buck this trend.

In98 women were arrested for prostitution, while only nine men were arrested Worcester teen hooker paying for sex. In33 women were arrested compared to 96 men. Medical professionals in Worcester are also starting to change their training to reduce bias against prostituted women and provide better care to help women exit prostitution. This shift follows — and may be partially thanks to — a shifting mindset towards people struggling with drug addiction in the midst of the opioid crisis. Prostituted women often face discrimination and bias when interacting with doctors or members of law enforcement, according to Nikki Bell, a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation in Worcester.

During the 10 years she was trapped in prostitution, Bell said trips to the hospital and interacting with police were traumatizing. Once, in her late 20s, she went to the emergency room after being raped, and a nurse suggested that treating her was a waste of time.

Bell is the founder and director of Living in Freedom Together, or LIFTan organization in Worcester that helps women exit the cycle of commercial sexual exploitation. Bell said women stuck in the violent cycle of prostitution need help and recovery services — not judgment or punishment. Most prostituted women in Worcester struggle with poverty, homelessness and addiction, according to Marianne Sarkis, a professor at Clark University who researches sexual exploitation in the region. A majority of prostituted women experience violent crime committed by johns or traffickers, particularly rape, according to a report by the U.

Department of Justice. The report Worcester teen hooker found that up to 80 percent of women were forced into prostitution by pimps or traffickers. When LIFT was founded inprostituted women in the city were being arrested five times more than the men who were buying them.

Last year, women were arrested less than half as many times as the men. He said that his office is focusing on buyers and plans to use sting operations and undercover officers to target buyers and traffickers. Around 25 women have taken part in the program since it started in July.

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Bell said that so far, the program is working well. The change in attitude toward prostituted women is also entering medical systems in Worcester. Jennifer Bradford, a doctor of family medicine, said judgmental or insensitive words and actions from doctors or nurses can make the difference between life and death for some prostituted women.

When women are treated well by doctors or officials, she said, they will be more likely to connect with resources and get help. Bradford said "trauma-informed care" combats bias and mistreatment of prostituted women and helps lower the power differential between doctors and patients.

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And this approach is gaining traction in the medical system, she added. An ironic upside of the nation's opioid epidemic is that people addicted to drugs — and those trapped in prostitution to feed their addiction — are increasingly seen as needing treatment and support as opposed to punishment, according to John Kelly, director of the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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Around the country, and especially in Boston, said Kelly, medical schools are updating their curriculum around substance use and recovery to reflect this new approach. In Worcester, the culture is changing for the better, said Bell, but there are still issues.

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The women her organization serves complain about their treatment in local hospitals, and law enforcement is still arresting prostituted women. So far in20 women have been arrested for prostitution in Worcester. Bell said ideally that would be zero. Early said that for now, arresting prostituted women is necessary, but there could be a future where women are not arrested at all and brought directly to LIFT instead. Bell thinks that as more people in positions of authority are better educated about addiction and sexual exploitation, more women will get the help they need.

Correction: Due to a source error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Marianne Sarkis will be monitoring the efficacy of the DA's diversion program. That reference has been removed from this article. News and Atlas Obscura, among other places. Worcester is increasingly looking at prostitution as a public health issue, rather than a moral failing. By Anna Kusmer. September 10, Share Facebook Tweet. Anna Kusmer askusmer. Tagged: Health Worcester. Trustworthy journalism, available for free to everyone.

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