CAIRN.INFO : Matières à réflexion

1 – Introduction

1Contemporary social work and support in Lithuania is still restricted only to the models of help or on the implementation of various state and international legal instruments and norms in tackling various social problems. However, the same human, as the most important in that process, is often overlooked. After all, on the basis of humanistic point of view, everyone the most aware of their difficulties and responds to the environment in a way, as it is subjectively perceived and experienced. Van Deurzen-Smith (1997, 16), by citing Kierkegaard (1846) thought, that “actuality is the unity of possibility and necessity”, remarks, only a free human is capable to exist realistically. However, according to Lobato (2001), freedom always has the burden, which necessarily involves human choice, leading to certain consequences. Probably no coincidence that, as Fedosiuk (2007, 55) notes, that the human freedom, as the main value, is protected by a norm of trafficking in human beings. However, according to the author, the main theoretical problem of trafficking in human beings is hindrances that conceptually explain the mechanism of violation against human freedom (Fedosiuk, 2003). It becomes more complicated and as a result emerge more controversial opinions referring to levels of prostitution as a phenomenon and analyzing person engaged in prostitution.

2Ruškus et al. (2005, 42-44), who analyzed rehabilitation and integration of the victims of the trafficking of women and prostitution note several models? [1] of interpretation the concept in Lithuania. These different aspects of the concept of a victim mean that “different groups distinguish the different characteristics of the victims and respectively highlight and sketch its reintegration efforts”. Two of the presented approaches will be referred to in this study. The first one is that the victim of prostitution is a woman who experienced psychological and physical violence. This concept is expanded adding the experience of sexual and economic exploitation of women and the negative results that influenced their lives, their experienced trauma and stigma. And the second one is based on understanding that difficult living conditions in childhood, their families or orphanages, difficult interpersonal relationships pressure women to fall into prostitution.

3Even though Lithuanian laws do not criminalize directly actions of women in prostitution, in the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Republic of Lithuania there is a fine set for women sexual services? [2]. In 2005, the mentioned Code was supplemented with anticipatory administrative penalties for their clients? [3] (Lietuvos Respublikos Teisingumo ministerija, 2006). Nevertheless, the Code of the Administrative Offenses of the Republic of Lithuania foreseeing fines for women in prostitution and their clients, once more confirms the opinion that women involved in prostitution are forced to feel guilty and shame for being sexually exploited.

4Prostitution in the same way as trafficking in human beings is a latent crime. For these reasons the explicit information about trafficked women in Lithuania also is not clear. According to the previous data analysis on the phenomenon of prostitution made by some foreign experts, there could be about 3000-10?000 or 4000-6000 women working as prostitutes in Lithuania (Lehti, 2003; Pruskus, 2010; TMO, 2005). A few years ago the extent of trafficking in women in Lithuania was the highest among the Baltic States (IOM, 2001, 9); it was believed that about 2-3 thousand women from the Baltic countries (about half of them from Lithuania) were trafficked for sexual exploitation (TMO/STI, 2004). Moreover, if earlier studies have shoved that Lithuania is mentioned as country of origin of victims (Ruškus et al., 2005), later not only the country of origin, but also the country of transit between Eastern and Central Europe (LHRL & MI RL, 2007). Contemporary studies show that Lithuania is not only the country of export or transit, but also and country of destination for human trafficking for sexual exploitation purposes, where victims become mostly children and women (Dottridge, 2010; according to country profiles and executive summary written by Blažyt?, 2008).

5Analyzing of the extent of human trafficking in Lithuania, according to various sources and statistical summaries of various organizations, human trafficking, including women and prostitution is quite shallow and does not show the real situation in the country. As it is noted by some researchers (?aplinskas, Mårdh, 2001; Pruskus, 2010; Sipavi?ien?, Tureikyt?, Rogait?, 2005; Ruškus et al., 2005), it is difficult to give exact number of how many women work as prostitutes in Lithuania because there are no exact numbers and approximate information could be based on secondary resources such as numbers of arrested prostitutes or administrative cases for practicing prostitution (TMO/VU, 2005, 26). As Weitzer (2005, 941) notes, it “is difficult to conduct a research on individuals who are stigmatized and involved in illegal behaviour”.

6Tendencies of growth prostitution not only on national, but also on international scale, encouraged to analyze essentially both, the phenomenon itself, and the personal experience of mostly involvement and exploitation of women. Foreign researchers analyzed the problem of trafficking in women and prostitution from different theoretical angles. Månsson (1993) has emphasized the consequences of sexuality and cohabitation culture. O‘Connor, Healy, (2006) and Farley (2000; 2003; 2004; 2005) underlined the characteristics of clients of prostitutes, demand for prostitution and male role. Several researchers have also analyzed the features of social work with this risk group (Månsson, 1993; 2003; Månsson, Hedin, 1999; Hedin, Månsson, 2003; Keeler, Jyrkinen, 1999; Grenz, 2005; Hearn et al. 2008). Ekberg (2004) signified the recognition of purchase of women sexual services and trafficking in human beings as a form of violence against women in Sweden. Other researchers, such as Raymond (2003, 2004), Raymond, Hughes, and Gomez (2001), Raymond et al. (2002) analyzed the phenomenon of trafficking in women as a violation of human rights, the question of legalization of prostitution, demand for prostitution, the link between trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation and sexual exploitation in families, connection between migration and trafficking in human beings and its consequences. O’Connor & Healy (2006) highlighted the link between trafficking in women for sexual exploitation and prostitution. Philippe & Romano (2008) investigated important and essential conditions for successful rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of trafficking in women. The historical study of the phenomenon of prostitution from the ancient world to the modern red-light districts and beyond was performed by Ringdal (2004). Also an overview of aspects of adultery, nymphomania, prostitution and human aspects of the experience of inferiority complex are made by Gitinas (2001). Thus, society constantly renews the debate on prostitution as a social problem; however, there are not many scientific studies, research or discussion, nor argument about this phenomenon “from inside”, especially on the personal experiences of these “insiders”, in this case women in prstitution.

7This study contributed to social support practice provided for victims of prostitution and trafficking in several ways. First, it supplemented information about what we know about women in prostitution previous life experience and their behaviour. That was not only important to learn the significance of the relationship among family members, parents and their children, but also to set out the obstacles, which block the mutual needs of them during their socialisation period. Second, this study indicated the importance of the dialogue, relationship between social worker and clients. Third, this study also revealed what was important and helped for victims of prostitution and trafficking as clients of social workers in the social services process, what could became the strength or resources for those women personal changes and growth in their way of life. Finally, this study indicated that did not necessarily women in prostitution were able to tackle prostitution successfully because of many others obstacles, such as addiction to drugs or alcohol or simply the absence of a due help.

2 – Problem

8The debates on prostitution and trafficking in women for purposes of sexual exploitation issues as a social problem have intensified during the past few years in Lithuania. The discussions raise different opinions and bring different representations. On the one hand, there is an attitude that prostitution is not the same as a human trafficking and women in prostitution choose it voluntarily, without pressure. Thus, such women’s activities must be controlled in order to protect them, their health, to control criminal activities. This kind of opinion is like trying to soften the approach towards these women, calling them sex workers, as, in their opinion, less stigmatizing than calling them prostitutes. Another approach, in contrast to the previous, claims that women are involved in prostitution and it is wrong that they are regarded as volunteers because they are victims of many psychological and social circumstances (Ruškus et al, 2005; Pruskus, 2010). Such an existence of a traditional dichotomy approach encourages to go deeply into causes-specific moments of the process of becoming a prostitute.

9Earlier studies showed that reasons for the emergence of prostitution can be considered as follows: the lesser number of available work places for women in job market; gender discriminatory work payment policies; high level of unemployment; the influence of economic situation of the country; influential demand for “sexual services”; low female status in the society; the problem of unequal opportunities for men and women (Farley, 2000; 2003; 2004; 2005; Marcinkevi?ien?, Praspaliauskien?, 2003; O‘Connor & Healy, 2006; Pruskus, 2010; Raymond, 2003 Raymond, Hughes, & Gomez, 2001; Ruškus et al, 2005). Some studies, analysing prostitution phenomenon showed, that women enter into prostitution because they want simply to put “what they see as their best asset (…) to good use” (Rogers, 2009). Pruskus (2010), talking about reasons of women self-engagement into prostitution also points out being them various – not only economic or social, but also biological and psychological. In his opinion, recent studies show that a direct, unambiguous treated link between the temperament of individual and the pursuit of prostitution does not exist. This implies to study the reality of context of personal experience of women in prostitution seeking to understand their, as human being, unique, individual and specific way of life.

10Moreover, in many cases it can be noticed that a person who is “different” from “others” or “the masses” is like eliminated from the society and suffers condemning perspective in public. This is readily noticeable in moments of daily life and in the press or other public information resources that discuss the phenomenon of prostitution and the people acting within it. Some authors analyzing the prostitution problem (Bilotait?-Jokubauskien? et al, 2004) in their research work observed the tendency of mass media to form a negative opinion? [4]. Other authors (Ruškus et al., 2005) who examined the problem of demand and supply for the social services for the victims of trafficking in human beings drew attention to the stigma of prostitution of women. They carried out a study which noted that due to the unfavourable public opinion, their disapproval, and social stigma, many of these women do not notify the authorities of criminal activities, which they have become victims of. Scientists believe that this phenomenon is more often associated with criminal law, stigmatizing and negative stereotypes of women. In this way, it is important to examine sexually exploited women experiences, presence of difficulties and obstacles they face with trying them to change theirs lives, their future for the developent of acceptable methods for their assistance.

11Thus, it is important to consider the stigma on women in prostitution in order to reduce and prevent their social exclusion that they experience, which is, according to Ruškus et al. (2005, 31-55), because of isolation from other citizens, traditional, and conventional social networks in the country as well a dominant negative approach. Scientists state that in the society the label “prostitute” is seen unambiguously negative, and what affects the prostitutes themselves most is that they lose an adequate response accepting them in social networks. According to Beleckas (1990, 3), often the “animal-like” exploiters and pimps who, “being people” (though the aspect of humanity might be questionable here) “turn the same human beings – women – into animals”, taking advantage of woman’s vulnerability or distorted self-perception of the situation. In many countries of the world, there is no exception in Lithuania too, that women in prostitution are people who are exploited, discriminated, marginalised, and segregated. They belong to people at risk. Ge??nien? and Mališauskait? (2003) in their analysis of children trafficking issues in Lithuania also note, that previously conducted numbers of trafficking in human beings, investigation of prostitution, though, gave an interesting data on the extent of this phenomenon and the ways of inclusion but none of them directly touched the problem of sexual exploitation of both children and adults in its depth and more detail. However, it is possible to pressume, that the fundamental root of thinking about women in prostitution, being trafficked or sexually exploited is an epistemological problem and difficulties.

12Moreover, maybe women self-engagement into prostitution is a random thing and does not depend on any pre-determining conditions? Thus, the questions of how women became a prostitute or what are the reasons of women’s involvement or, according to widely existing opinion, of “self-involvement” in prostitution should be raised. These issues become very important while searching the answers how to reduce or prevent the growing scale of prostitution involving more young women and girls.

13Analysing a personal experiences of women in prostitution one can not ignore pre-history, which formed and influenced an approach towards women and their position, place in society, both men and women relationships, where both created conditions for the formation of stereotyped labelling, and, of course, the stigma. According to Tomura (2009), despite the fact that perception, interpretation and attitude toward women in prostitution vary between cultures and societies, the role and social status of prostitutes differ depending on the particular socio-political and legal systems, public health conditions, gender, and spiritual climate of each society. Ringdal (2004) notes, that throughout history sex market enjoyed formidable customer demand. As Brents and Hausbeck (2006) conclude in their research “What is Wrong With Prostitution?” not unexpectedly. They find that the stigma associated with prostitution is a significant problem for prostitutes as they manage their identities and negotiate their lives outside the brothels. However, as McCormick (1997) notes, since the 19th century both groups (feminists and scholars), who analyzed and perceived this phenomenon and the involved persons differently “along with the general public have stereotyped prostitutes variously as pariahs who spread disease, victims of dysfunctional families or an exploitative patriarchy, or self-confident, sex-positive women who take pride in their economic independence from men“. However, the author notes, “none of them just justice of the reality of women lives” (McCormick, 1997, 62). O’Neill (1996) points out, that social stigma as well as criminal experience by women in prostitution is further compounded by the masculine organization and development of the sex-for-sale industry. The definitions in itself used to depict the phenomenon as voluntary prostitution, forced trafficking, sex work, commercial sex trade, or describe woman status in prostitution – migrant sex worker, beautiful merchandise (Chinese words), or socially disadvantaged women (Farley, 2003), commercial sex worker (CSW) or female sex worker (FSW) (Thappa, Singh, Kaimal, 2007, 69), conceal harm and lead to confusion about the real nature of women in prostitution. According to Farley (2003), some of them (socially disadvantage) sort of are ostensibly used to avoid stigmatization. Weitzer (2005, 936), who does not often meet with the position of anti prostitution activists, approves that by saying, “it is true that the conventional term prostitute is stigmatizing“. Ekberg (2004) notices that the victims of prostitution and trafficking in women often as a parting of the two different groups promote the wrong interpretation of men abuse against women. One of the essential things is the fact that women in prostitution, being not recognized as victims of trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation and/or the victim of violence, lose an opportunity to access justice, one of the fundamental aspects of human rights.

14Then it becomes important to research who are we to call a victim? Who is the victim of trafficking in women for sexual exploitation or forced prostitution? Is the woman providing sexual services also the victim? Are not the women in prostitution who as though “voluntary” choose to provide sexual services, the same as the victims of human trafficking, and should not they be viewed differently and receive other assistance, not only the condoms in order to ensure the safe sex for men? Determination of definition of the word victim is very important in the helping process. As Oselin (2007) notes the social science literature has not examined or analyzed in more detail the motivations for leaving prostitution in any systematic or comparative fashion except a few case studies not to mention the ways stigma or traumatic experience influence and change daily life of women in prostitution. The identification of the victim of prostitution and the trafficking in human beings is the primary starting point from which the process of aid begins to bring positive change in women’s lives. The fact that in our country there are different concepts for trafficking in women for sexual exploitation and women in prostitution only complicates the delivery of aid. On the other hand, according to the national studies conducted on the basis of the findings and the practice of working with victims, pimp criminality becomes a dependent on the victim’s evidence, while the crime is not recognized and the criminals unpunished.

15Kast (2001, 43) analyzing the role of the victim described him as follows, “A victim – is the person who avoids conflict, backs off, who says „yes“ but does not necessarily agree with that. If somebody pushes such people, they apologize and criticize themselves for taking up so much space in the world. These people quietly say, “I am abnormal but you all are doing everything very well (…)”. Perpetrator’s aim is to enslave the victim, grab her consciousness, and domineer her in every aspect of her life. His aim is to bring up an obedient victim that finds sexual expression in her obedience. As Herman (1997) notes, the control on another person is based on the consolidation of power deprivation and sacrifice decoupling from people, introduction of horror and helplessness, destruction of “I” and of feeling connectivity with other people.

16Moreover, the term prostitute, as Weitzer, (2005, 936) asserts, being used as “the conventional term (…) is stigmatizing”. The definition of a term prostitute in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English (OALD) (Crowther, 1995, 931) is explained as “a person who offers herself or himself for sex with sb in return for money” or “oneself to use one‘s abilities, etc wrongly in a way that is not worthy of them, esp. in order to earn money or to act as a prostitute”. The Modern Lithuanian Language Dictionary (MLLD) (Keinys (Ed.), 2000, 625) describes a prostitute as [a] “woman engaged in prostitution”. According to the Modern Lithuanian Language Dictionary (MLLD) (Keinys (Ed.), 2000, 625) prostitution is defined as “venal practices, promiscuity of women”. The term of prostitution, explained by MLLD, implies two important aspects towards attitude to this phenomenon. The first one, the prostitution is clearly attributed only for women. The second one, prostitution is associated with “promiscuity”, which is equated for “debauchery, depravity” conduct and a person acting in this way as “hussy, slut, carve” (Keinys (Ed.), 2000, 488). However Tomura (2009, 52) notes that the term prostitute “does not merely signify individuals who engage in sexual conduct in return for monetary compensation”, but also “exhibit unmistakably negative values attached” to this word. Whereas, the international law, which commits every EU country to follow them, describes prostitution as trafficking in human beings and women in prostitution as victims of sexual abuse. In this study I will use the term women in prostitution, who are considered both psychological and social negatively influenced and systematically sexually exploited.

17Thus, the dominating perspective towards women in prostitution such as being “different”, “of lower intellect”, “secondary”, not worthy to be helped to change due to their “own choice” and “their accepted” way of life, encouraged me to analyze their personal experience deeper, on purpose to understand their life specific patterns, searching for answers and contra-arguments.

3 – Conceptual Framework

18In this study personal life experience of women in prostitution was understood as Cohn (2002, 64) states, “every present moment” which “still contains the past it left behind while already pointing towards a future”. Perttula (1998, 22) explains a person’s experience as “personal experiential meanings concerning this world, including the self, (…) [which] are constituted in accordance with the basic structure of the conscious mode of being”. Heineman Pieper and Pieper (1990) assert, that “empirical experience arises from publicly accessible data”. The authors explain:


The common referent for empirical is a to-be-known reality that originates in a locus that can be observed by another as well as by the knower and can be apprehended by an act of knowing that includes sensory experience. Empirical knowledge result from a perceptual experience that others can potentially replicate and validate.
(Heineman Pieper and Pieper, 1990, 12)

20In this study personal experiences of women in prostitution were understood throughout their transmitted cognitive and interpretative process. As Patton (2002, 352) notes, “opinions and feelings are likely to be more grounded and meaningful once the respondent has verbally “relived” the experience”.

21The holistic existential approach at the human life, covering four broad spheres according to van Deurzen-Smith (1997), physical, social, psychological, and spiritual allowed better and clearer understand women in prostitution and their life. Van Deurzen-Smith (1997, 100), analyzing everyday human existence, assigns more importance to human position than it might seem to have at the first glance. Ko?i?nas (2009) notes, that the “self” of a person is understood as always fixed only relatively, but in reality, being in a process of continuous exchange all the time. Therefore, a person’s life, according to principle of inter-relatedness can be understood as a complex network of relations with the world. Van Deurzen-Smith (1997) argues that people are not defined as bodies in their own individual rights, which affect their lives during their interpersonal relationships. She assigns priority to the mutual relationships and holds the concept of formation of one’s own self a secondary matter. In her view, a person is an intermediary dependent on others and on circumstances. Therefore, she argues, it is important to look holistically at the human life, covering four broad spheres, despite the fact that these spheres intertwine and overlap with each other. A “four-dimensional” view at the human experience consists of four – physical, social, personal, and spiritual dimensions. Such a holistic point of view towards personal experiences of women in prostitution allowed better and clearer understand not only them, but and their life. Van Deurzen-Smith (1997) states that we all recognize our bodily existence, our existence with others, our existence with our own self, and our existence with the system of meanings. Universal existential conditions and the individual women relationship with them, such as the being-with, meaning, choice, isolation, freedom, responsibility, recognition, safety, loneliness, and/or other, which have unfold during research process, were considered as well.

22The theoretical framework of the study was based on the interactional model of social work practice (Shulman, 1992) ideas and trauma (Herman, 1997) theory which were merged with the heuristic research methodology (Moustakas, 1990) to support both an alternative social work practice vision and a reconceptualised research context. The interactional model and its three core ideas framework guided for the necessary “broaden our understanding of many of our clients’ problems in living” (Shulman, 1992, 9) and in this study as well to undenstand personal experiences of women in prostitution.

23The interactional model (IM) of social work practice represents “three core ideas”: “the belief in the essential symbiotic relationship between people and their social surround, (…) [the] mutual need is systematically blocked by obstacles—some raised by the client and others by the system the client must negotiate (…) social worker must always assume and reach for the client’s (and system’s) strength for change” (Shulman, 1992, 9). Human relationship, their formation and development are one of the most difficult, but at the same time the most important areas of social work practice. Relationships enables person to continue to be an individual and are important in a personal transformation process. The relationship with another person also motivates personal growth and change. The relationship helps to see and understand ourselves and the world around more realistic. Moreover, the experience of relationship with other helps to a person to find meaning in life. Schulman (1992, 10), according to Schwartz (1961), asserts, that ”each individual finds life’s needs best satisfied in positive relationships with other”. The author uses the term of symbiotic relationship to emphasize and highlight the strength of the significance of the relationship between people which enables person’s transformation or, as he states, “to find and develop the motivation that is already there” (Schulman, 1992, 10).

24Another important author’s presented idea of an interactional model and significant in a social work practice is about blocks. He separates three potential obstacles in the relation between a person and his/her social surround: “the changing social system, the conflicts between self-interest and mutual interest, and the dynamics of interpersonal communications” (Schulman, 1992, 13). The author accentuates the problems in “the increasing complexity of human social systems, (…) the divergent interest of people and the systems that matter to them, (…) and interpersonal communication”.

25And the third idea, mentioned by Schulman (1992, 16), is “reach for the client’s strength”. The author states that “people fundamentally act according to the sum of the strengths and skills [is] accumulated by past experiences”. Thus, what it is important for the social worker at first, to believe the capacities of their clients and the second, to find the ways to “reach” the clients’ resources necessary for their transformation. In this study IM provided a basis for the use of narrative depiction vis-à-vis the heuristic research methodology to reconceptualise and challenge the use of contemporary social work practice with clients, in this case, women in prostitution.

26Herman’s (1997, 120-122) trauma theory presents “the concept of a complex traumatic syndrome” called “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” which helped to reveal and contextualise the main features and specific patterns which revealed the personal past and present experiences of women in prostitution that refers to their negative connotations of themselves. The author calls for taking attention towards traumatized person for a long time and “the recognition they deserve”. The author also invites “to learn from survivors” who experienced long-lasting violence and “who understand more profoundly than any investigator, the effects of captivity”. Representing [the] “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” or the CPTSD, the first, she includes various kinds of experienced violence, starting with “subjection to totalitarian control over a prolonged period (months to year)” to “domestic battering, childhood physical or sexual abuse, and organized sexual exploitation”. The second, she separates six different alterations: “affect regulation, consciousness, self-perception, perception of perpetrator, relations with others, and systems of meaning”. The author proposes the responses to trauma to understand “as a spectrum of conditions rather than as a single disorder”, which “range from a brief stress reaction, (…) classic or simple post-traumatic stress disorder, to the complex syndrome of prolonged, repeated trauma”. In this study the name of the “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” I used as abbreviation calling it the CPTSD. The trauma theory enabled critical perspectives and exploration on how the distinguished aspects in CPTSD were deeply ingrained in personal life’s experiences of women in prostitution, impelled or directed their behaviour, relationships and resources for changes.

4 – Purpose and research Question

27In this study according to the heuristic research methodology (Moustakas, 1990) we were looking up for a path-break towards research participants, and, as Fielding (1993) states, to “explore some hitherto obscure niche of social life” of women in prostitution. While working as a social worker, constantly communicating and speaking with these women, remaining at the time closest to their emotional state, it was possible to see and feel what these women are experiencing. The dialogue (Buber, 1998; 2001) with these women allowed to explore self-searching, reflection, the feelings and emotions these women expressed, their behaviour and representation of themselves being in the relationship. In this study the personal experiences of their contemporary life, their trail which they shared about their childhood, adolescence, before entering to prostitution or trying to tackle the trauma was examined. Revealing their experience of sexual exploitation or abuse, their asserted manifestation of trauma and stigma, the connection of their past, here and now, and future, their isolation from the outside world was analysed. This study also was an analysis of women’s reality, how they promoted and facilitated their personal growth and self-realisation. On the one hand, it was important to find out not only the best research method that helped me to convey personal experiences of women in prostitution, but also to understand and examine the obstacles and relationship they have met, and resources they found before engaged in prostitution. On the other hand, the heuristic research methodology allowed researchers to turn back on themselves, to thoughts and feelings, which occurred throughout experience and self-reflection during research process. The primary devised research question What is specific/incidental to the life stories/personal experience of women in prostitution? throughout the heuristic research methodology (Moustakas, 1990) phases of initial engagement, immersion, and incubation influenced the formulation of the main research question that was: What specific patterns of personal experiences unfold through life stories of women in prostitution before becoming involved them in prostitution?

5 – The Heuristic Research Methodology

28According to the definition of social work, the principles of human rights and social justice are considered to be the basis of social work, and social workers serve as the agents of change for the public and individuals, families and communities, in which they serve, (Bagdonas, 2004, 63-64). The Lithuanian Social Workers Code of Ethics (1998) says that the main idea of the social work is protection of a person as of an individual (LSDA, 1998, LSDEK, preface, 1). Kavaliauskien? (2005, 79) analyzing the problems of social work values and system of principles refers a belief «that all people have a goal, although it may seem strange or destructive.» Workers, thus, have a goal to reveal the significance of behaviour and goals instead of “putting a label” for one’s behaviour, stereotyping or reacting in any other negative way. Thus, this work is intended to find out what lies in the experience of women in prostitution, what its pre-history is and how they relate it to their way to prostitution.

29Fielding (1993, 156) notes, that the “way of rendering the spirit (…) researcher must be involved in the ongoing, daily world of the people being studied”. The social work practice with the victims of prostitution confirmed that as well. Building up a strong contact with the women in prostitution, gaining their trust and opening-up was possible to be reached only through a significant period of time. Only including both, the own and those women systematic desensitisation, extinction procedures and positive reinforcement especially, using self-control and stopping of thoughts it was possible to “catch” the “real” moments of personal experiences of research participants. Conducting these analyses were, as Coulshed & Orme (1998, 171) describe, “like jumping on to a moving bus”. That allowed to understand that the only way to “jump on to a moving bus” was by “being inside”. Thereby, as Tyson (1995, 203) points out, to “prioritize analyzing the conceptual consistency and social relevance of the choices being made in designing research as well as the biases introduced by each choice”, the best idea in this research was possible implementing by adopting the heuristic paradigm.

30Tyson (1995, 473) notes, that [the] “discovering new facts about human nature (…) engage both the knower and the known”. Thus, the most relevant way for searching and understanding of personal experiences of women in prostitution and, according to Moustakas (1990, 15) “self-inquiry and dialogue with others”, I saw through the use of the heuristic methodology in this research. The heuristic research design, includes six phases of investigation: “the initial engagement, immersion into topic and question, incubation, illumination, explication, and culmination of the research in a creative synthesis” (Moustakas, 1990, 27).

31Various social factors, including the socio-cultural context of the locale where a person is born, lives and matures come into play while becoming a personality. These factors form a personality’s self-perception and self-judgement, create a person’s own “I” and affect the ways the “I” responds to the surrounding environment (Berk, 2003; Fromm, 1965; Grigas, 1998; Jacikevi?ius, 1994; Milaši?nas, 2007; Pe?kauskait?-Šatrijos Ragana, 1998; Pieper Heineman & Pieper, 1999 and 2003; Rogers, 1985). A person creates a life by enacting choices of greatest importance to the self guided by one’s own understanding of values, one’s own understanding of what is meaningful/meaningless and faith in the foundation of one’s own worldview and personal philosophy (Ko?i?nas, 2008; van Deurzen, 1997). However, long-lasting, traumatic experiences in childhood, during the especially sensitive periods of personality development, chop at the roots of personality formation and greatly interfere in its development (Finkelhor and associates, 1986; Gailien?, 2008; Herman, 1997; Karmaza, 2007; Moustakas, 1961; Solomon, Siegel, 2003). In such a case, a person cannot be understood by character, dysfunction type or one or another structure from the perspective of proprium (or individuality) but only by associating the person’s life story with specific ways of being in that person’s world.

6 – Initial engagement

32This study was based on six years experience of providing psychosocial services for women victims of trafficking in human beings. While working for a non-governmental organization to help for women in prostitution, in many conversations with them as clients we discussed what their situation means to them and what would help them to change it. All of them would stated in one voice – a proper understanding and acceptance of their reality of their being. Such thinking encouraged me to search for effective ways of help. It seemed to me that previous practice, experience, and skills acquired working in many social organizations? [5] did not equip me fully to be able to help the victims of trafficking and prostitution. Some of my earlier practical social work methods were not quite appropriate. Thus, it was necessary to seek for new methods to help these women overcome the suffered trauma. The situation was hard also because of little work experience with such clients in the country itself. Thus, possibilities to learn and analyze appropriate ways of help were limited. That was the beginning of the study which led into a deeper research on experience of prostituted or trafficked women.

33According to the heuristic research methodology, the first phase, period of initial engagement, occurred when “passionate concern” at the aspects of the personal experiences of women in prostitution compelled to look to the searching phenomenon. While investigating the life stories of women in prostitution, what became meaningful were their early life experiences, which, in one way or another, influenced, form or direct their choices and opportunities in life. Relationships within the family or the immediate surroundings of these women constituted the important sphere for one or another sort of socialisation during childhood or adolescence leading to the creation of their individual “I”. Thereby the first endeavours of this study were to answer these questions: Who were these women in their everyday lives before becoming involved in prostitution? What were their specific relationships with significant others? What kinds of obstacles did they face during their childhood and adolescence? What resources did they have to overcome obstacles? In terms of these questions, the life stories from childhood to the time these women became victims of prostitution distinguished their lack of these certain features: safety, well-being, recognition, love, propinquity, autonomy, individuality, mutual understanding and meaningfulness.

34However, that involved not only to describe and depict those women personal experiences, but also invited the inner search, personal implications, using self-dialogue and self-reflection in order to discover and clarify the research topic and question. Thus the women’s perception encouraged to think over own “tacit awareness and knowledge”, thoughts, feelings and personal experiences about “significant relationships within a social context” (Moustakas, 1990, 27).

35What I sensed during the entire time of our talk with Bron? that she held a great distance between us by her unwillingness to dig more deeply into the details of life. Her angry tone of voice and her rushing to answer what I had asked and doing so quite formally during. Such behaviour by her seemed to substantiate the observation by Zohar and Marshall (2004, 50) that “angry people seldom feel like cooperating” and, when they are feeling badly, they are likely to “blame someone or something for that feeling.” ?aplinskas and Mårdh (2001) also claim that women in prostitution are afraid of revealing their own (or maybe their procurer’s or client’s) identity. Bron?, as though sensing my bewilderment and the tension hanging in the air during our talk, notices justifying herself: “As a teenager I was aggressive, nasty, rough. Even now my character is complicated” (B14.1-2). I felt as though some still impassable wall divided Bron? and me. This bothered me no less than it did her. To overcome this, we would need more than one meeting. At times it would seem as though she was behaving just as coldly with me as she does with her clients. I would feel as if I was the one who was “buying” the services she was “selling”. Aside from the sensed anger, restlessness and a certain sort of aggression, it seemed as if she had no other feelings. This was different from the talks with Diana or Kotryna, who gave me the sense of wanting to share their experiences and talk things out, even though it was not easy for them to do so. I remember that Diana would stop talking often and cover her face with her hands saying, “*Oh, I’m so ashamed*” (D152.1). Zbarauskait? (2008, 158) asserts that a sense of shame “protects the inner, private sphere”, advises “what can be shown and what is better left to oneself” and restrains a person, once the person senses his/her certain behaviour or desire “could be unsuitable”. This is what indicates the difference between the self and another person.

36According to the heuristic research process, the period of initial engagement, the research topic and question was discovered through self-searching and self-dialogue. The knowledge was derived throughout “tacit, intuitive or observed phenomena”, through entering “fully into the theme” that clarified topic more and illuminated “the terms of the question” (Moustakas, 1990, 27).

7 – Immersion into topic and question

37During the next, second phase, immersion, my self-searching continued, as Moustakas (1990, 28) says, I lived with the research question “in waking, sleeping, and even dream states” while designing the method for data collection. That means, that during immersion phase, “anything connected with the question (…) people, places, meetings, readings, [practical psycho-social work with clients], (…) pursuing intuitive clues or hunches (…) [became] raw material” (Moustakas, 1990, 28).

38Various discussions about prostitution with many different people (would it be practicians or scientists) often showed dominating negative perspective towards women in prostitution. Often these women were considered such as being “different”, “of lower intellect”, “secondary”, not worthy to be helped to change due to their “own choice” and “their accepted” way of life. That encouraged to analyze their personal experience deeper, on purpose to understand their life specific patterns, searching for answers and contra-arguments of so called their „voluntarily choise“ of prostitution. Inside myself I felt inner contradiction towards the negative attitude to these women, which encouraged me to search for answer to what extent human’s decision can be conscious or unconscious. Inner feeling disagreed with the view that such decision of woman in prostitution is person’s conscious choice. I raised myself a question if it was possible to desire to be abused physically, emotionally, or spiritually? If it was so, then so called “choice” was influenced by some circumstances. Inside myself I believed that there should be other reasons for women to find themselves in such situations where they become a thing or an object that helps men to implement their distorted sexual fantasies and desires. Such belief was even more strengthened by shared experiences and feelings of these women met during their childhood or growing up in families or in foster home. I remember the story of Zita, when she talked about herself. As she was four years old, her parents were killed, leaving her an orphan. Her grandmother agreed to raise her. Although the grandmother loved the little girl, according to Zita, they always experienced poverty and scarcity: “Grandma did not work. She only got disability and some money for me. Lovely clothes, toys – we only got them from charity, and that was rarely” (Z2.2). Zita rushed to get married before reaching adulthood since she felt tension, anxiety and fear about losing her grandmother who was her only source of support. As Zita recalls, “I was in a hurry, because grandma got sick, and I was afraid, she’d die, and I’d be left alone so, as soon as I had an offer, I agreed to get married” (Z4.2). Thus, by looking for security and a faster way to free herself from the anxiety enveloping her that involved “being afraid that I’d be left alone”, Zita rushes to get married and, thereby, hands over the responsibility for her life to others. Hereafter the woman continues to suffer painful experiences. Her pregnancy results in a stillbirth which resulted in, as Zita says, “From that day onward I’d call my life hell” (Z6.4). Zita believes that the traumatic events she experienced, especially the last one of violent sexual abuse, opened the door to where she is now, into what she ironically refers to as her “career”: “After that happening something changed in me … and I started my ‘career’” (Z18.1-5).

39Toma also, similarly to Zita, also lost her father early in life, when she was only eight years old. Although, unlike Zita, she did grow up in a family, its environment involved continual drinking parties, arguments and conflicts. Toma remembers that, after her father’s death, her mother started drinking all the more and did not care for the children growing up in the family. Toma relates, “Parties wouldn’t end for weeks, mother changed boyfriends like socks, until she started living with one of her shot glass buddies (T2.6). Later the “so-called” stepfather (researcher note: the mother never married this man) appeared in the family and sexually abused the girl. Later the woman had to experience different types of abuse, including sexual abuse, discrimination, stigmatisation and a demeaning attitude towards her in her family, not only from her husband but also from his friends.

40Both women, formerly (and even now) long-term victims of manifold violence, who lived through terror, rage, heartbreak, hopelessness, powerlessness, worthlessness, havoc, constant fear, anxiety, loneliness and a stigmatising sense of devaluation, lacked effective self-protection. As Herman describes (1997, 119), persons who formerly or currently experienced or are now experiencing long-term, multi-repetitive traumatising experiences characteristically have a “complex cluster of symptoms” that exhausts them. Herman names this, a “complex post-traumatic stress disorder”.

41The data were collected through the interviews (the answers of the interview with women in prostitution were put following question by question) and letters, through making notes from observation into researcher’s diary. I got the idea in the study include the women who were my clients. In that case I saw both, advantages and disadvantages. As Davies (2008, 3) points out, „we cannot research something with which we have no contact, from which we are completely isolated“. As the advantage in therein I saw that I had a good contact with them what allowed to communicate to us openly. The fact that I myself provided social assistance to the victims of trafficking in human beings and prostitution concerned me and brought some doubts whether it is right and proper to include my clients in the research. Apprehensions were also raised by the fact whether I will not affect the study results calling my client to participate in the study? How much including my clients to the research I will allow, as Davies (2008, 4) points out, to maintain a distance through used methods „in which interaction is kept to a minimum“. How can I be detached? To what extent the clients will be able or willing to be open up with me, not as an employee, rather than the researcher? I was wondering how much and whether they would agree to participate in the study if they had not been my clients? Maybe they will agree to participate in the study only because they are my clients? What would it mean for them to participate in the study? How much would there be a sincere and genuine desire, or maybe just more reluctance to respond to me because I helped them?

42I revealed these issues and my worries concerning the participation of my clients in the study with several of them that I had strong contact. They were my first chosen survey informants. The main criterion for selecting them was our close mutual contact and communication. To my surprise and joy, I got their support, understanding, and also an incentive to invite them to participate in the study. Of course, it delighted me and increased my own motivation more to invite to participate in the research my clients. There was no woman whom I invited to participate in the study that would feel uncomfortable about my questions and decide to withdraw their consent to participate in the investigation. Thus, I received great support and motivation to deal with this problem deeper from women themselves. They confirmed that they knew and trusted me, and thus agreed to share their personal experiences. Only due to such relationships they are able and willing to tell about themselves. The most important condition for these women in order to open up that they all mentioned was unconditional acceptance, understanding of them the way as they are and trust to me. According to them, first of all, I really felt that they trusted me, and secondly, their participation in the study, as they identified, would allow others to see their real experience and reasons of involvement in prostitution, “showing the violent side as opposed to “supposedly” safe environment”. [Field notes, 12 March 2005]. Another important aspect—the meanings of attitude and relationship—clarified during a talk with one of the respondents who said, “I’d want to be looked at like a human being” [Field notes, 15 April 2005]. This helped to focus on another area in this study and later to formulate it as one of the research tasks relevant to stigma suffered by women in prostitution. Later, there were selected only those parts of the data, which were relevant for answering the research question (Myring, 2000).

43Continuing self-searching during immersion process, every story was read repeatedly through the all text by pursuing to obtain a sense of the whole (Tesch, 1990; in Hsieh & Shannon, 2005, 1279) women’s personal experiences in the specific their life moments and “to determine what’s significant” (Patton, 2002, 463).

8 – Incubation: “If only I’d have grown up in a normal family”

44The next period, called an incubation phase, constituted of the own particular “retreats from the intense, concentrated focus on the question”. These stimulating retreats gave the understanding of “the inner workings of the tacit dimension and intuition to continue to clarify and extend understanding on levels outside the immediate awareness” (Moustakas, 1990, 28-29). Incubation period helped to “bring” myself “into awareness” of “a new understanding” or discoveries, or, by words of Polanyi (1964, 34; in Moustakas, 1990, 28-29), throughout “scramble among the rocks and in the gullies of the flank of the hill”. That encouraged “the first cut” of organised data into areas of focus or topics. That was made trough reading the all data and making comments.

45Every woman in prostitution story was named by her given or (in some cases) researcher chosen nickname, where later the first letter of nickname was taken for the code’s name. The questions and answers put into text were. The comments or notions were made following the reading what helped to focus on some area and organize the data into topics or themes.

46Kotryna, Diana, and Bron? were three other women who, the same as Zita and Toma, are still engaged in being prostituted. The way their present lives have unfolded is something they associate with their former environment and the means of upbringing during their childhoods and adolescence which in this study was called “If only I’d have grown up in a normal family”. Women shared their personal experiences:


When I moved into the ‘common flat’ {transl. note: direct translation for living quarters, usually a room, with shared kitchen, toilet and bath}, that’s when it all started with the other girls, who were already into doing it.


If the means of bringing us up had been different, then, I think, even I’d have been different.


I simply relaxed. The booze, good times, drugs, no lack of guys either (…) contributing to it was that company and probably the parties.

50Thus the fact that Kotryna, Diana and Bron?, the same as Zita and Toma, repeatedly fall into situations akin to their experiences in childhood and adolescence, which seemingly “sooth” the attitudes they formed earlier, show how strongly these attitudes are entrenched. These women may not fully understand their “choice”, their “relaxation”; however, they seem to “unconsciously” grasp that the non-existence of safe relationships in their immediate surroundings in childhood appear “to have chosen” their later “appropriate” interactions or ways of reacting to situations that arise presently. Therefore it is no mere happenstance that Kotryna, Diana and Bron? associated their present with the inappropriate ways of upbringing in childhood and the environment that continues to attract them.

9 – Illumination: “I always wanted to be independent”

51The tacit knowledge and intuition, increased through incubation period, was like “a breakthrough into conscious awareness” in an illumination, the fourth phase process. That helped to disclose and integrate of “missed, misunderstood, or distorted realities” and “hidden meanings” into a new whole (Moustakas, 1990, 29-30). The answers of the respondents, often containing several meanings, were splited into units of meaning. Fragments of passages that were significant to a research question or some particular related context were highlighted. They were formulated as “analytical” objects, which later were “analysed one after the other” (Flick, 1989, 193). These units helped to characterise specific patterns unfolding in the personal experiences of women in prostitution.

52The life experiences of Alg? and Odeta in their families differ, even though they were both born into full, nuclear families. Alg?’s parents divorced before she started school. However, what they both have in common are their experiences of a lack of autonomy, freedom, trust and security in childhood and later in adolescence. What Alg? considers essential and meaningful matters in turning or creating her life are her family relationships: “Mama’s arrangements are everywhere” (A14.4).

53Differently than Alg?, Odeta lived in a full, four-member, nuclear family. However, when the woman was talking about the relationships and contact with persons close to her in her past life, she said ironically, “I know that I didn’t live for some 27 years, that I was just gathering experience. That’s what I have behind my back. That’s the most precious treasure I have” (O45.1). Usually father as the most important figure in her life predominated in Odeta’s memories, even though her father worked a job that kept him away from home months at a time. Since father was continually travelling on the job, all the childcare fell on mother. Now, when she is recollecting her past, Odeta distinguishes the relationship with her father as important and meaningful to her life more so than she does with her mother: “Father always loved me very much and always tried to protect me in life” (O18.3).

54Odeta’s and Alg?‘s ambivalent feelings substantiate that they have had to live through experiences of a deficiency of love, presence of a close person and contacts with persons who were meaningful to them along with painful neglect, separation from significant others and loneliness.

55The experiences of Irma and Julia differ from the other research participants. One had been a topless dancer in a nightclub, while the other had been involved with swingers. They were both prostituted only internally, in the country. Both were also incest victims: Irma experienced long-term sexual abuse in childhood from at the age of 7 until age 16 by her older brother, whereas Julia – by her real father.

56Both spent their childhoods in full nuclear families. Irma suffered no less than Julia did from stigma experienced by the relationships in their families as well as with their age mates. Later, after their family situations changed due to their parents’ severed interrelationships, they both experienced neglect and loneliness, the painful sense of being cut off from contacts with close people, love, tenderness and recognition, a lack of closeness and feelings of longing. They were both treated like objects more than once irrespective of their wants, opinions and feelings. They were, according to Moustakas (1961, 60), seemingly “left out of life” which, consequently, left them “imprisoned by self-estrangement, by extraneous values and standards, by a mechanical and machine-like existence”.

57Illumination process allowed to percept of the essence and wholeness of personal experience of women in prostitution.

10 – Explication: “I’m a garbage man’s daughter”

58During the fifth phase, explication, the new meanings that surfaced in the illumination phase and broke through into conscious awareness were analysed. As Moustakas (1990, 30) says, “Illumination opens the door to a new awareness, a modification of an old understanding, a synthesis of fragmented knowledge” and during the explication phase “researcher enters into a process (…) in much more detail”. Thus this phase allowed “fully examine what has awakened in consciousness”. For explication process it was important [the] “own awareness, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and judgments as a prelude to the understanding” which were utilized “focusing, indwelling, self-searching, and self-disclosure”.

59Of her early childhood experiences, Irma remembers the conflictual, tense family relationships, her parents drinking heavily, not getting along with each other and often physically fighting. Furthermore, when her father was away on work trips, her mother often searched for the companionship of other men. Now Irma remembers, “I anyway from the very start saw actual fighting and, that my parents drink, that they beat each other up, that’s all, I didn’t see anything else” (I200.6-8). Lobato (2001) affirms that the family, the home is the place where individuality forms, where a person becomes a personality under the influence of relationships based on interpersonal love and familial devotion. Irma remembers that she only better understood her parents’ conflictual relationships and, later, the reason for their divorce after she was a teenager when she witnessed for herself her mother’s unfitting behaviour with her father and understood what was happening in their family. Thus, woman compensated the lack of security and close contacts from her parents by her relationship with her oldest brother: “He’d go on our side, he’d protect us, wouldn’t let anybody harm us” (I208.2).

60Now it seems to the young woman that the need for close relationships during those times was satisfied with help from her oldest brother. Irma claims that, back then, between her brother and her “the relationships weren’t just any old kind” (I208.4). She understood and accepted their relationship as concern, care for her, love and warmth: “I’ll protect you, then I’ll be with you and always love you, and that was enough for me” (I208.10-11). Now, as she remembers all this, she seemingly tries to justify her behaviour. At first, she said, “There was a lot I didn’t understand” (I336.8), and everything that happened between her brother and her was seemingly “like a game” (I336.4). She explained that she had succumbed to her brother’s enticements and promises: “I’ll always be good to you (…) I’ll buy you this (…) I’ll buy you that” (I336.6-7). That was how he talked her into performing acts of oral sex with him. Later, when Irma was 14-15 years old, the so-called “games” she played with her brother matured into regular sexual relations. It is still hard for her to remember and talk about that now. The frequent sighs, pauses and avoidance of eye contact during the time of the talk show how difficult it was for her to talk about it. Even now, the woman’s self-accusations conform with those thinking patterns that Herman (1997) considers characteristic of traumatised people of any age when one attempts to explain what happened to them. Listening to her during the talks, her anger, self-hatred and self-disgust could be felt: “I am so disgusting” (I346.13) as well as her attempt to justify her behaviour: “It was always disgusting to me” (I336.5) so that “I’d even shake it off of myself” (I346.14). When talking about the experience of her relationship with her brother, Irma avoids words such as sexual abuse, sexual relationships or intercourse. At first she referred to it as “that”, “it”, “something”, “what I would do” and “I used to be”. When asked later what that meant, what did she have in mind so saying, she unwillingly names those words, “that”, “it” and “something” as meaning sexual relations with her brother.

61The explication phase allowed to concentrate on researcher internal frame of reference, experience, also fully elucidate “the descriptive qualities and themes that characterize the experience being investigated” or recognise “new constituents” (Moustakas, 1990, 31). Throughout this phase of heuristic content analysis process the major silhouetted components of personal experiences of women in prostitution were explicated.

11 – Creative synthesis

62The last phase, creative synthesis, occurred becoming “thoroughly familiar with all the data in its major constituents, qualities, and themes”. In other words, there were explicated the all essences details, reflecting the wholeness of personal experiences of women in prostitution in their life stories about their growing up. Afterwards, formulated paraphrases on the grounds of various sources of theories were explicated (Moustakas, 1990, 30-31). Guided by these six phases a creative synthesis in the form of narrative depiction was shared, of the lead the experience in relationship with women in prostitution. The final phase of heuristic content analysis, creative synthesis, were achieved through tacit, intuitive, and discovered throughout self-search knowledge that illuminated and explicated the research question.

12 – Conclusions

63The analysis of early life traumatic personal experiences of women in prostitution prior to prostitution during their childhood and adolescence highlighted certain patterns in their lives that can be described as follows: Inner unhappiness; Inner instability; Vulnerability in relationships with others; Damaged self—low self-confidence and self-esteem; Objectified, traumatised and stigmatised identity; Self-destructive or devaluating behaviour; Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).

64The research revealed that environment in which women in prostitution grew, matured and socialised, the relationship among significant for them people played a meaningful role in the formation them as a person. The family or other their living surrounding became the most important agent in the environment where they were born and developed. The interrelationships of the members of these women‘s families and their values echoed over the course of their as a child’s development and in maturity. Therefore, positive behaviour with them and the formation of a favourable environment for development and maturity on the part of parents and other their caregivers were that what they lack. Relationships that did not provide them with needed attention and that included either no interactions or destructive interactions with them negatively impacted the development of their thinking patterns and cognitive and social abilities.

12.1 – Inner unhappiness

65Meanwhile what outcropped from the early life experiences of the women in prostitution who participated in this research was certain lacks from their parents or their caregivers. Such lacks included caring love, support, emotional and psychological contacts, intimate relationships (especially with mother), responsible concern and warmth in the family. Since these women experienced physical, social, moral and spiritual neglect during childhood and adolescence, they were unable to satisfy their emotional needs satisfactorily. All the participants in this research discerned a lack of close relationships in childhood and adolescence, especially the non-existence of close contacts with mother or father, as matters of greatest significance to them. The experiences of betrayal by persons closest to them, rejection and neglect caused them never-ending anguish, anger, antagonism and mistrust of others or extreme dependency on others. Otherwise, in the future, it was difficult for them to believe that others love her. The experiences of the participants in this research revealed that they had had a shortage of mother love and the satisfaction of a close emotional contact in childhood or adolescence. This consequently damaged their fundamental trust in themselves and others. They were inclined to withdraw into themselves. They attempted and had difficulties binding relationships with others, and these often became antagonistic. All the participants of this research lacked a safe attachment to a person close to them. Later, as they attempted to satisfy this need, they formed attachments to inappropriate people who continued not to respond to this need of theirs, the same as the people had not previously in their lives.

66The experiences of some women (Bron?, Diana, Milda, Renata and Silva) attest to the pain and trauma they went through when their parents rejected them or when they simply did not respond to their inner needs such as in the cases of Evelina, Irma, Kotryna, Loreta and Vil?. The other women, Toma and Zita, suffered traumas by losing their parents at an early age. Still others, Alg? and Odeta, were forced into obedience. Consequently they sought to satisfy their needs in other, often destructive manners thusly distorting their will to live.

67Some research participants (Bron?, Diana, Milda and Silva) had mothers who abandoned them, refusing to care for them in early childhood. Such a traumatic experience along with the way others in their lives behaved caused them to feel different, set apart from other children who were growing up in a family. Obviously, since they felt this way, they described themselves in terms such as “bandit-ka”, “not like all the other normal kids”, “not that category of a person” and “stupid, naive”. Their growing inner antagonism due to their unsatisfied needs seemingly echoed in their relationships with others expressing something akin to a lack of self-confidence and manifesting as fear of threatening destruction.

68Thus, as children or adolescents, these women experienced inner unhappiness and expressed it by poorly regulating their behaviour, creating various problems for themselves, having low self-esteem along with negative moods and feelings, sabotaging relationships with others or sometimes even wrongly insisting that they are happy and feel “fine”.

12.2 – Inner instability

69This research on the early life experiences of women in prostitution revealed their inner instability and lack of inner equilibrium resulting in experienced difficulties as they attempt to adjust to their circumstantial environments. The indications that they were experiencing inner instability were their increased restlessness, antagonistic disposition, lack of inner resilience, learning difficulties or later health problems.

70All the women participating in this research experienced in their childhood or adolescence all sorts of long-lasting neglect in their immediate environments, in one way or another. They formed as antagonistically inclined personalities in any sorts of their later relationships, protesting against any demands or other efforts placed on them to adhere to rules. Even more, such life’s circumstances caused a state of continual anxiety. The childhood and adolescent environments of these women hindered more than contributed to the development, formation and maturation of their, as children, maturing personalities or, in other words, to their entire socialisation.

71The participating women in prostitution who had suffered traumatic experiences of one sort or another in their early lives, in childhood or adolescence, revealed their inner instability substantiating that they had not resolved their traumas—i.e., they lacked trauma resolution. The major trait expressing inner states of being regards unbalanced emotions.

12.3 – Vulnerability in relationships with others

72All the participants in this research had experienced multiplex betrayal by intimate people were notable for their vulnerability in relationships with others. The abuse, control and repetitive multiplex betrayal by close persons predominating in the environments where these women grew up systematically caused these women difficulties in forming close relationships with others. Consequently terminating relationships was their more likely choice in their immediate environments (divorce, breaking off relationships, not associating with parents) rather than seeking compromises. Once this essential aspect for creating intimate relationships was damaged, inwardly women felt helplessness and chaos. It was difficult to trust another person or even oneself. However, they still yearned to connect with another and, at the same time, feared having such a contact.

12.4 – Damaged self-low self-confidence and self-esteem

73The social character of the women participating in this research revealed their low self-assessment, self-doubt and distrust of others and misleading imaginings about the self, others and the surrounding world.

74The experiences of all the participating women revealed their damaged self-esteem. During the frequent times of rejection and neglect, they especially felt the need for human contact. In some cases, they had demands placed on them to obey to some certain set order, some set of rules with no consideration to their wants and needs. Some suffered cruel treatment for disobedience such as being locked into a dark room, shaved bald, undressed and ordered to walk publically as other children watch and punished physically including publically at times. In such manners, they were forced to obey another by refuting their own “I”, their own personal opinion and their own, independent choice, in other words, by betraying themselves. Consequently they felt guilty about themselves or about others, blamed themselves for being “dumb”, for surrendering to the influence of others and for failing to resist and blamed others for behaving cruelly with them, for not responding to their needs, for abandoning or leaving them or simply for the way circumstances had unfolded.

12.5 – Objectively traumatised and stigmatised identity

75The cruel abuse from others suffered by these prostituted women, especially the sexual abuse by persons close to them, forced these women to betray their own moral values. This way they attempt to lessen or to justify their sexual exploitation or they simply behave anti-socially. Eight of them, over half, entered into prostitution in adolescence, from 13 to 18 years of age, and three entered at the age of 18. Six women experienced sexual abuse of which four experienced long-term abuse and an attempted rape in adolescence. Despite their being treated as objects, they would say that they had experienced “the only gentleness ever” that “he there was so nice with me, he was good, gentle, and talked nicely” and that “it was like a game.”

76Nine women, the majority of them, suffered in their childhood and adolescence prolonged stigmatising, negative attitudes towards them such as “garbage man’s daughter”, “skull”, “white crow {i.e., black sheep}, “whore”, “empty”, “kid of a merga {transl. note: demeaning term for girl implying inferiority}, “psycho” and “just like mother”. They felt “different”, unlike the rest, guilty and bad, all of which, consequently became incorporated into their self-image.

12.6 – Self-destructive or devalued behaviour

77The women participating in this research were not always able to transform their behaviours in childhood and adolescence into positive behaviour later. Their behaviours, named herein as self-destructive or devalued, which manifested in various ways in relationships with others, with adults as much as with age peers, substantiated their distress or humiliation. The research participants had displayed all the following behaviours as children or as teenagers: Six ran away from home or from institutional care homes. Five displayed impulsiveness or aggressiveness with others, especially with adults. Six withdrew or retreated from others, from adults as much as from age peers. Five were unable to make friends. Twelve were unwilling to study. Three considered or attempted suicide. Eight did not trust others. Seven had a greater awareness of sexual behaviour than was suitable for their ages. Fourteen were alcohol users and twelve, narcotics users. Eleven experienced sexual relations early in age. Thusly they expressed hostile, self-destructive behaviour in response to abusive behaviour with them and to provocative stimuli.

12.7 – Complex post-traumatic stress disorder

78Thereby a traumatised person’s “responses to trauma” constitute “spectrum of conditions”, which Herman (1997, 119) names, “complex post-traumatic stress disorder”. It reflects variable symptoms of prolonged, repeated traumas and deep deformations. They all experienced (and some continue experiencing) the following long-term effects, ranging from the ages of one month to several years: They experienced (1). “Dependency on totalitarian control” – 9 women; lived through (2). “Emotional regulation changes” such as constant dysphoria, repeated suicide attempts, erupting or suppressed anger and compulsive or repressed sexuality – 11 women; revealed (3). “Changes in consciousness” such as amnesia about traumatic events, disassociation, depersonalisation and reliving an experience in a new form of post-traumatic stress disorder or persistent reconsiderations – 7 women; testified about (4). “Self-perception changes” such as powerlessness, lack of initiative, shame, guilt, stigma of being marked as different from others, conviction that no one understands oneself or feelings of accepting deformed identity – 13 women; substantiated (5). “Changes in perceiving an abuser” such as an inability to sever relationships, desire for revenge, instances of idealisation or designating special status to the relationship and adoption of the abuser’s thinking and beliefs – 7 women; outcropped (6). “Changes in relationships with other people” such as isolation, withdrawal, dissolution of close relationships, search for yet another rescuer, constant distrust of others and repetitive efforts to save oneself from complete fiasco – 11 women and confirmed (7). “Changes in meanings systems” such as a loss of fundamental faith supporting the person and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness – 13 women.


  • [1]
    According to them, some organizations assign psychological and physical consequences of violence to a particular victim, while others believe that the victim is the result of forced prostitution due to unsuccessful migration of labour. Another approach to the victim is based on the failure of women’s socialization effects, their growth in extremely difficult living conditions experiencing poverty, rejection or growing in segregated institutions. According to the authors’ observation, there is one more concept understanding the trafficking in women, the phenomenon of prostitution, and women involved in prostitution, which ignores the concept of victim and the woman in prostitution for a variety of economic, psychological and social factors that doomed them to work as prostitutes (Ruškus et al., 2005, 42-44).
  • [2]
    Following Article 1821 on the engagement in prostitution of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Republic of Lithuania (182 Article, 1 section, p.?245), in 1994-2005 a fine specified there is from 300 to 500 LTL, for repeated actions a fine is from 500 to 1.000 LTL or administrative detention up to thirty days (Lietuvos Respublikos Teisingumo ministerija, 2006, 245). The size of these sanctions is established in 1994 (Official gazette 1994, No 58-1132) (Lithuanian Human Rights League (LHRL) & the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania (MI), M. N. Sta?iokien?, 2007, 46).
  • [3]
    The Code of Administrative Offenses of the Republic of Lithuanian, 182 Article, 1 section, p.?245, change of the Article came into force on the 16th June 2005. The engagement in prostitution or remunerated use of prostitution services is subject to a fine from three hundred to five hundred litas. (Lietuvos Respublikos Teisingumo Ministerija, 2006, 245).
  • [4]
    According to observation of Bilotait?-Jokubauskien? et al (2004, 38), social problems are created and supported by different claim-makers and today’s popular culture encourages the importance of sexual needs and values. Free market economic policies, influence public morals, and increase tolerance for such social problems as prostitution. It should be noted that the prevailing negative attitude towards the victims of prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation has been and maintained and strengthened by local and national media that write about women in prostitution. Intriguing headlines of the magazine and newspaper articles and radio broadcasts undoubtedly contribute to the formation of the negative public opinion of the woman: Lithuanian Prostitutes: From The Street To Elite Escort Girls. I. Saukien?,, 2008-11-07. A From Of Sex Slavery Becoming More Popular - Marriage By Catalogue. I. Saukien?,, 2007-09-28. Klaipeda Prostitutes - Ineradicable. Ž. Skersyt?, ‘Vakar? Ekspresas’, 2007-07-23 Supply Is Growing As Demand Is Not Decreasing, M. Motiej?nien?, Kauno Diena, No.188 (17649), 2005-08-16; Former Prostitutes Will Be Helped To Get Back To Society, M. Jackevi?ius,, 2005-07-22; The Express Train Of Sex Slaves Is Slowing Down,, 2005-06-11; Sex Slaves Do Not Boast Of Their Past, D. Valevi?ien?, ‘Kauno Diena’, 2004-06-22.
  • [5]
    My voluntary work for the youth help line providing psychological counselling, the social work at the health centre for people with mental disabilities, and the work with women victims of domestic violence, prostitution, and trafficking in human beings.


This research used an exploratory open-ended inquiry, self-direct search and immersion in active experience according to Moustakas (1990) heuristic research guide and Patton (2002), Mayring (2000) and Flick’s (1989) content analysis to investigate and discover a lived personal experiences of women in prostitution. Efficiency of the practice of psicho-social support and assistance to the clients depends on understandings of them. As Rogers (1961) notes, a sensitive emphatic understanding of another person’s feelings and communications as they seem to him or her at that moment or internal frame of reference is an essential condition for constructive personality change. Focusing on women’s in prostitution personal subjective experiences from their childhood to adulthood, this study examines their obstacles they faced, relationships and resources before becoming involved them in prostitution. The obstacles they faced with during their growing up was the main area of focus in this study examining those women managed lived experience of being-in-the-world. The aim of this study was to provide a “voice” to women in prostitution revealing what it means to be prostituted women. The personal experiences of women in prostitution were understood throughout their transmitted subjective interpretation or verbally “relived” their personal experience once again. In this study the reintegration of derived knowledge of discovery and synthesis of researchers’ intuition and tacit understanding in portraying research participants as whole persons were involved as well.


  • prostitution
  • women in prostitution
  • personal experiences
  • heuristic content analysis
  • specific life patterns of women in prostitution
  • trauma
  • stigma

Etre une prostituée. Que cela signifie-t-il? Une expérience personnelle vécue de femmes dans la prostitution


Cette recherche a utilisé une enquête exploratoire à fin ouverte, une immersion et une recherche autodirigée dans l’expérience active selon le guide de recherche heuristique de Moustakas (1990) et l’analyse de contenu de Patton (2002), Mayring (2000) et Flick (1989) pour enquêter sur et découvrir des expériences personnelles vécues de femmes dans la prostitution. Pour que la pratique du soutien psycho-social et de l’assistance aux clients soit efficace, il faut les comprendre. Comme Rogers (1961) le note, une compréhension sensible emphatique des sentiments et communications tels qu’ils apparaissent à l’autre personne à ce moment, ou carde de référence interne, est une condition essentielle à un changement de personnalité constructif. En se concentrant sur les expériences personnelles subjectives des femmes dans la prostitution depuis leur enfance jusqu’à l’âge adulte, cette étude examine les obstacles qu’elles ont rencontrés, les relations et les ressources avant qu’elles ne soient concernées par la prostitution. Cette étude s’est principalement concentrée sur les obstacles qu’elles ont rencontrés en grandissant, examinant comment ces femmes géraient l’expérience vécue d’être-au-monde. Le but de cette étude était de fournir une « voix » aux femmes dans la prostitution en révélant ce que cela signifie que d’être une prostituée. Les expériences personnelles de femmes dans la prostitution étaient comprises à travers leur interprétation subjective transmise. Elles ont verbalement « revécu » leur expérience à nouveau. Dans cette étude a été impliquée aussi la réintégration de connaissance dérivée de découverte et de synthèse de l’intuition des chercheurs et de compréhension tacite en dépeignant les participants à la recherche en tant que personnes entières.


  • Prostitution
  • femmes dans la prostitution
  • expériences personnelles
  • analyse heuristique du contenu
  • modèles spécifiques de femmes dans la prostitution
  • trauma
  • stigmate


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Dalia Puidokienė
Jonas Ruškus
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