olicy P B rief
UMBC Policy Brief No. 6 – August 2007
Department of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250
Determinants of Behavior Among Women Choosing to Engage in Street Level Prostitution by Lyn Stankiewicz Murphy About the Author
Lyn Murphy is an assistant professor and the Director of Professional Development at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Her area of research focuses on program development for women involved in street-level prostitution. She is particularly interested in the behavioral determinants that influence women to choose a lifestyle of prostitution and the economic effects of this behavior on society. The long-term goal of her research is to develop communitybased infrastructures that will reduce and ultimately prevent the incidence of women engaged in street-level prostitution. Dr. Murphy received her B.S.N. from Carlow College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, her Masters in Nursing from the University of Maryland School of Nursing, her M.B.A from the University of Baltimore, and her Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. This Policy Brief is adapted from her dissertation. Issue
Female prostitution is a concern from both a public health and an economic perspective. Despite the enormity of this issue, little is known about why women choose to engage in this type of behavior, given the many risks prostitution presents. Even less is known about how to intervene and interrupt the complex cycle of prostitution. Women involved in prostitution are a highly marginalized population who are rarely recognized as individuals with life histories. If we are able to explore the dimensions of these women’s lives and better understand the issues behind the behavior of prostitution, we can create a better match between what exists and what is needed, with the goal being treatment, and ultimately, prevention of this behavior. Background
Prostitution is a behavior that involves the exchange of sexual services for economic compensation in the form of money or needed resources (e.g. housing or food). Due to the sexual promiscuity surrounding prostitution, women involved in prostitution constitute a high risk group for the contraction and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (Estebanez, Fitch, & Najera, 1993). Prostitution, as it is known today, takes on many definitions as it relates to sex for hire. Given the illegality and the intimate nature of prostitution, determining the exact number of women involved in prostitution in the United States is difficult. Researchers often use official statistics, such as the number of women arrested for prostitution, to estimate the number of women involved in prostitution. However, it is probable that between one-half and three-quarters of the women engaged in prostitution have never been arrested (Marshall & Hendtlass, 1986). The U.S. Department of Justice (2002) suggests that more than two million women in the United States are working as prostitutes, which is about one percent of the female population.
Prostitution has been the topic of much discussion in the social and biomedical literature as it relates to the epidemic of STDs and HIV in this country (Romera-Daza, Weeks, & Singer, 2003; Carr, 1995). Women involved in prostitution have been implicated in the spread of STDs and HIV because, as a group, they engage in sexual behavior more frequently and with more partners than is usual in a population (Carr, Goldberg, & Elliott, et al, 1996; Carr, 1995). Research has demonstrated that the prevalence rates of HIV and STDs range from 25 to 67 percent in this population (Hansen, Lopez-Iftikhar, & Alegria, 2002). Overall, studies documenting the linkages between HIV infection and prostitution are numerous and offer clear evidence that women involved in prostitution often engage in high risk behaviors, such as...
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The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is a major research university in the Baltimore-Washington area. The Department of Public Policy offers a master’s and a Ph.D. degree, and advanced graduate certificates. Our mission is to provide superior education for a diverse range of high quality students with aspirations and career goals related to public policy. Our interdisciplinary program prepares students for senior administration, policy analysis, research, consulting, and teaching. Our major areas of focus include evaluation and analytical techniques, health policy, public management, social policy, and urban policy. For more information, visit our Web site, www.umbc.edu/pubpol or call 410-455-3201. UMBC Policy Briefs summarize important policy-related research by UMBC faculty and students. Editor: Anne V. Roland, UMBC Department of Public Policy © 2007 University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Department of Public Policy University of Maryland, Baltimore County 1000 Hilltop Circle Baltimore, MD 21250
olicy P B rief
UMBC Policy Brief No. 6 – August 2007
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