The successful exit from prostitution – a report on the work of SISTERS e.V.

We from “SISTERS – for the exit from prostitution! e.V.” will regularly inform you here on our website about our public relations work and will share with you various media reports on our activities. Today, however, we give you an insight into our practical work which is an essential part of our commitment.

SISTERS has set itself the goal of supporting women to exit prostitution. This is so important to us that we decided to include this goal in the name of our association. We believe that prostitution is an injustice system which harms everyone: women, men – and especially those who have to live in this system. For them we want to be there and do our best to help them. Most inquiries reach us by email; they always contain requests for assistance in getting out of prostitution. Sometimes the women write themselves, sometimes it is friends, acquaintances or family members who contact us. Sometimes employees from counseling centers and authorities turn to us who need support in taking care of a woman who wants to leave prostitution and cannot find a counseling center in her city that specializes in exit work and can offer effective help. Sometimes, in addition to professional counseling by email, telephone, or in a personal meeting, financial help is also necessary.

In 2019, we supported 49 women financially in exiting prostitution. The help was quite multifaceted: from a few euros for a ticket to the home country to four-digit sums for individual women whose situation was particularly difficult. In the first phase of the exit, we finance accommodation and living expenses; occasionally, debts are settled by us to make the exit possible; and in individual cases we also support women who left prostitution a long time ago and are now in such financial distress that this exit is at risk. We sometimes pay for medical help and medication, because the vast majority of women do not have health insurance and would otherwise not be able to receive medical assistance.

Every woman who exits prostitution is unique. While some get along fairly well with the injuries inflicted on them in prostitution, it is extremely hard for others to find their way in a free and independent life. The way out of prostitution is difficult and most of the women live in very precarious conditions. Unforeseen expenses can sometimes shake everyday life and our help can restore some of the necessary stability. Every case, every woman is different, each of them has specific problems, but they all come with serious injuries from prostitution.

The main part of our exit work takes place in Stuttgart. This is also due to the fact that in addition to the many honorary members of our association, there is a well-developed network of public aid structures. The city of Stuttgart has been a model community for the help of prostitutes for many years. Moreover, our first exit apartment is located in the center of Stuttgart. Alice Schwarzer had already a year before made a donation of 20,000 euros for this purpose. At first we could not find a suitable apartment on the tight housing market. But then help came again: the renowned feminist magazine EMMA spontaneously advertised for us on page three. Success was quick to follow, for our current landlady offered us a magnificent apartment. So since October 2018, we have been able to accommodate women who left prostitution. The women feel very comfortable there. And also our landlady and all the neighbors in the house are happy with us.

So far, eight women have lived in the apartment. The stay of the women varies in length. One woman’s stay with us was only short: she had escaped from her pimp and then traveled on to another federal state. Another woman has been living with us again since the summer; she came to us pregnant, and under our care she gave birth to her child. So this little boy is our first “SISTERS’ child”. After the end of her maternity leave, the mother has meanwhile been able to take up a small employment subject to social security contributions and will soon dare to take the next step.

In general, we offer every woman asking for help to exit on that same day. All over Germany! After the first talks – usually by phone – we check if there are members of SISTERS living nearby who can meet with the woman and maybe even accompany the exit in the same place. In any case, the women can come to us in Stuttgart. If there is currently no bed available in our exit apartment, we will first accomodate the women in a guest house. Those of our association members who are committed to accompanying the exit will support the women in various areas over the following weeks and months. This includes finding a job, translating, creating resumes, the learning of the German language, organizing leisure activities, and sometimes just being there and listening. When the women have settled into their new accomodation, the most important thing is to reorganize their daily habits. And to find work for them, which is the key to a permanent life in Germany. We currently have two young women who have started working as chambermaids in a hotel and are now earning their first money in Germany outside the prostitution system. Many of the initial jobs are in the cleaning sector. On the one hand, as many of the women were already prostituted at a very young age, they have no professional training yet; on the other hand, because these jobs can often be done with hardly any knowledge of German. Quickly getting a normal job, quickly earning one’s own money, having something to do and being able to live independently – this is the women’s most burning desire. “I want to live a normal life,” they say.

99% of our work is financed from donations and membership fees. The remaining percent is from allocated fines. In Germany, investigative and criminal proceedings can be closed against payment of a fine in cases of minor guilt or suspended sentences. There are no rigid rules for the decision of who will be allocated the money. Judges and prosecutors have their own scope of discretion. We are registered on the list of possible benefiaries at 15 higher regional courts in Germany.

Do you work as a lay judge, do you work in the judiciary yourself or do you have acquaintances in this field? Then please suggest SISTERS e.V. as a recipient of fines.

We can make good use of this money.