Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This study sought to discover how women in street level prostitution survive "the life," how they get out of prostitution, and how they are able to rebuild their lives. What resiliency factors contribute to their ability not only to survive, but to prosper? This qualitative, exploratory study intended to contribute to the knowledge base on women in street-level prostitution, which, although large, has not had a primary focus on how women leave "the life" and what their lives are like following departure. Three women who had been prostituted at the street level, and in other areas, for at least six months and who had been out of "the life" for at least six months were recruited. Interview topics included: 1) early childhood memories; 2) introduction to and entry into prostitution; 3) experiences and coping mechanisms in "the life"; 4) the exit process; 5) rebuilding after prostitution; 6) what their lives are like today; and 7) their plans and dreams for the future. These women used substances and dissociation to cope with their lifestyle. These women relied on formal and informal sources of support to leave "the life" and to help rebuild their lives. Resiliency factors identified included insight, use of supportive relationships, as well as turning their experiences into opportunities for growth and learning for others. Suggestions for further research were made to expand the literature on how women who wish to leave "the life" can be supported.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iii, 94 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 83-86)