DOZENS of men and women are being forced sell their bodies and turn their Hartlepool homes into brothels to make ends meet or to battle crippling drug and booze addictions.
A shocking report into the vice trade in Hartlepool has revealed at least 24 brothels operating in town and a further 23 prostitutes travelling to sell their bodies on the streets across Teesside.
Today domestic abuse charity Harbour said they have helped several women in Hartlepool in the last year who have been forced into prostitution and have been supported at the town’s women’s refuge.
Danielle Chadwick, service manager at Hartlepool harbour Services, said: “We have had four individual women who accessed our refuge service who have been forced into selling their bodies.
“It is usually linked to drug addiction and we have worked closely with the ton’s drugs services.”
She added: “This is a form of abuse and it is something we can definitely support women with.
“We can help women get legal advice and safety planning to stop this. We can work with other agencies to help them.”
The disturbing report, compiled by social science expert Dr Christopher Hartworth for the Northern Roack Foundation, discovered 15 women and nine men are using their homes in Hartlepool to sell sex to either boost their income, as a form of employment, or to feed addictions to drugs or alcohol.
He said there were reports of one brothel operating near Hartlepool town centre and also a number of flats being used for this type of “commercial” prostitution, with Hartlepool hookers advertising their services on the internet and attracting clients from across the North-East.
The research found that these brothel workers are mainly aged from 26 to 35, with some in the 18 to 25 bracket, and an even smaller number aged from 36 to 45.
Dr Hartworth’s work also revealed that there are 23 Hartlepool women regularly travelling to Stockton and Middlesbrough on the trains and buses to sell sex on the street, preferring to earn their money out of the town’s close knit “village-like” community which carries a high risk of them being recognised or revealed as hookers.
Only two men in their 20s serviced kerb crawlers, with one travelling to Newcastle to engage in prostitution.
Dr Hartworth brands this street work “survival sex” because people mainly did it to pay for accommodation, food, alcohol and also drugs they are addicted to, such as heroin, and benzos.
Punters pay from £5 to £60 for oral sex, with an average cost of £20 - while full sex ranges from £5 to £150, with an average of £50.
He said: “It is a real life of hardship and having to experience violence often on a daily basis with lots of abuse and being pimped. They live really hard and terrible lives.
“I found that people partake in survival sex for somewhere to live, for food or to feed addictions, and those who do this from Hartlepool travelled outside the area to Middlesbrough or Stockton because the transport links are so good and because people tend to know each other in Hartlepool.
“There was commercial prostitution happening in Hartlepool with women and men working from their own premises and advertising predominantly on the internet often with regular customers.
“For some of these people it was for more of an income choice to make money, but there are those who do this because of really hard addictions that they are having to deal with and prostitution is the only way to service those addictions.
“I can’t say where these brothels are because if location were published then punters do tend to find those areas and go there.
“The aim of the report was to bring to light the issues of the people involved.”
Dr Hartworth said he compiled the report after interviewing drug and health agency workers who spoke anonymously about their clients.
A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said vice officers were not aware of a particular problem in Hartlepool.
The report also looked at cases of prostitution across Teesside with the majority of prostitutes selling sex before they turned 16.
It found evidence of 489 women and 142 men as well as nine transgendered people – male to female – involved in prostitution.
WHERE TO GO FOR HELP AND SUPPORT?
• Harbour Women’s Refuge: 24-hour phone line - (01429) 277508. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Hartlepool Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Park Road: Drop-in sessions on Mondays, Wednesday, Thursdays and Friday’s from 9.30am-12.30pm and 12.30pm-3pm.
Alternatively people can call (01429) 408401.
• Community Drugs Centre, Whitby Street, Hartlepool: Walk-in services available Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9am-5pm and on a Wednesday from 9am-8pm. Support also available by calling (01429) 285000.
• Cleveland Police: Call 101. Alternatively call 999 in cases of an emergency.