Develop an awareness of commercial sexual exploitation: the risk factors, dynamics, and associated physical and psychological effects which can manifest during and after their involvement in the ‘sex industry.’ Being informed will enable you to identify and appropriately assess women involved.
Be mindful of the physical environment and its effects on the women you support: inadequate physical space can cause distress and prevent women from feeling safe and in control. Trauma-informed design includes a clear spatial layout, cool colours which are uplifting, easy to clean furniture arranged in a way that promotes collaboration, natural light and displayed plants.
Be mindful of your body language: workers should be mindful that women who have experienced trauma can be hypervigilant about staff's body language and look to read cues, which is why it is important to establish good communication and build trust.
Acknowledge symptoms and behaviors that women develop through their experiences, circumstances and trauma: These can include anger, dissociation, isolation, substance use and self-destructive behaviours. In V. Frankl’s words, “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.” Acknowledge symptoms as valid adaptations that helped women to survive trauma and manage its effects.
Gradually build a reliable and trustworthy relationship: trust has many facets so it can be helpful to, for example, turn up on time and maintain consistency between what is promised and delivered. Place appropriate boundaries which would help manage women’s expectations: clarify the length of each session or appointment and how many women can access in total, explain the limits of confidentiality, and provide details of how to make contact with the worker and other organisations outside of the woman’s individual support sessions.
Try to maximise women’s choice: as J. Fisher states*, “when choices are limited or when there is a feeling of being trapped, the autonomic nervous system senses danger and enacts a survival [fight or flight] response.” Where possible, provide women with opportunities to exercise choice. For instance, asking her what type of beverage she would like to drink, where she would like to sit, and what she would like to focus on that day or what are her priorities.
Work collaboratively with women: this includes checking their reaction to what you have said to ensure that there is a shared understanding; reflecting on your assumptions about what the woman’s needs are; being open about your relevant actions; and inviting women to focus on their own plans and strategies.