Letter: Troubled pasts

May 25, 2001

You correctly highlight the vulnerability of students who have decided to make "easy" money as prostitutes ("Red light finds its way on to campus", THES , May 11).

Doubtless the vision of ever-increasing debt adds to the motivation, but many of the students we see have also been sexually or physically abused as children. This appears to set up a potential to dissociate in the face of stress that leads them to be able to work in the sex industry.

The result is that while many of the men and women resolutely assert that they are expressing their power and independence in engaging in this activity, they are often equally resolute in insisting that their presenting symptoms - whether they be self-mutilation, suicide attempts or eating disorders - are unrelated to their method of income generation.

It would be sad if your article in any way suggested that the £1,000 obtainable in a weekend is not paid for in terms of self value, or sup-ported the idea that such income generation is not customarily associated with extremely troubled pasts.

M. J. Burton
Director of psychological and counselling services unit
University of Sussex

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