Stigma hurts. It isolates and condemns. For women working in the sex industry, it is a roadblock to accessing safe housing, vital services and a sense of belonging.

Discrimination can also lead to rejected rental applications, abuse from others and the pervasive sense that society has judged and defined them by what they do, without knowing who they are.

Yiyi* knows this stigma well. When she arrived here from China to work in the sex industry, she felt really alone. “I don’t have friends and I don’t like going out with others. I normally don’t talk to people,” she said.

Alone and in a new country, Yiyi knew only a few basic words of English. Stigma stopped Yiyi from accessing basic health services, afraid that people would judge her.

When HopeStreet Women’s Services first met Yiyi, she immediately felt accepted and supported, especially with the help of staff who could connect with her in her own language.

“I am so lucky to know your service; sometimes I feel very stressed about work but I know I can talk to someone and get the support I need. I know I’m never judged and I always feel accepted,” said Yiyi.

As a result, Yiyi was able to fully engage with Women’s Services. She has found secure accommodation, is up to date with all her health needs and is excited to be attending free English classes.

Perhaps more importantly, Yiyi feels part of a welcoming community.

Support without judgement is key to reducing the stigma many women in the sex industry face. Women’s Services offer tailored support with Mandarin and Cantonese speaking social workers. This professional support enables women like Yiyi the chance to address factors that diminish choice and increase the opportunities available to them.

Every person deserves to be recognised for more than just their job or life circumstances.

*Name changed for confidentiality

Your donation to BaptistCare HopeStreet Women’s Services will help us provide welcoming and non-judgemental support to those who seek it. Donate to the work of BaptistCare HopeStreet here.